Told mostly through the perspective of a cat named Prudence, this novel was mostly a delight.
I have a low tolerance for the schtick of “animal voices” in fiction, but this novel did a great job of evoking a very cat like response to the unfolding drama. Prudence is dismayed when her Most Important Person, Sarah suddenly disappears… but she is even more upset when Sarah’s daughter Laura and her husband Josh invade her home, pack up all the Sarah-things and then transplant everything, Prudence included, to a new home across the city.
While trying to come to terms with her new life and roommates, Prudence deals with the grief of a lost loved one with surprising depth. Interwoven in her memories of Sarah and her adventures with Laura and Josh is a back story of a complicated mother-daughter relationship.
There were laugh at loud moments as well as some profound messages of love and hope… and of course, a happy ending.
But there were also a few things I didn’t like about the novel.
While most of the narration comes from Prudence (and is done in the first “cat” perspective), a few chapters focus on Laura… and jarringly are told in the third person. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, there are a couple of Sarah chapters too… which are not only in the first person, Sara, but are conversational in tone… as if she is telling her story (to whom we don’t know) from beyond the grave.
Chapters 1 – 4: Prudence
Chapter 5: Laura
Chapter 6: Prudence
Chapter 7: Sarah
Chapter 8 and 9: Prudence
Chapter 10: Laura
Chapter 11 and 12: Prudence
Chapter 12: Sarah
Chapter 13: Prudence
Chapter 14: Laura
Chapter 15 and 16: Prudence
The reason for the narration change seems to be to give the readers more information so that the plot movement makes more sense. While this is accomplished, it is still awkwardly done. Sarah’s chapters are full blown flashbacks that fill in a lot of missing facts, but are unsettling because she didn’t share these facts with either of the other characters while she was alive, and yet they are essential in our understanding of Sarah as a person.
I just think that either the shared narration should have started earlier (four chapters in is a long time to suddenly change anything) or have been handled differently.
Regardless of the narration, the other thing that was slightly cumbersome was the “sticky point”, the thing which all the negativity and family drama between Laura and her mother Sara hinged upon. There is an awful lot of lead up to this traumatic moment where their lives took this horrible turn and nothing was ever the same and Laura just couldn’t get over it even years and years later because oh my god it was so big and so nasty and… And then we read it, and it is somewhat of a let down. (And we read about it from Sarah who isn’t the one still dwelling on it!)
And then another character, who had been referenced but had yet to show up,does in fact show up, and she solves Laura’s problem with a direct “get over yourself” sort of moment… and then… the problem is pretty much solved.
… /raised eye brow/ …
Of course, as happens in most animal point of view books, the animal has a near death experience but since we all know that there is going to be a happy ending, the drama isn’t really there, even if the writing is particularly strong in this section.
So. All in all, I enjoyed the story this book told. I loved Prudence as a character and enjoyed her cat-itude about things like food and The Monster (vacuum cleaner). The book was a fairly quick read and did have some universal truths to point out in terms of loss and communication. In short, it was a good book and I am glad I read it even if I am picky and easily bugged by things that probably wouldn’t even phase a more casual reader.