BBAW Giveaway #1: Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
I've got a bit of a soft spot for pet memoirs, as long as they're not too heavy on the schmoop. I've read and enjoyed the ubiquitous Marley & Me, the sweet Dewey, and the more cerebral The Dogs of Bedlam Farm. So when Homer's Odyssey appeared in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in June, I added it to my request list. For days afterward, I wondered if I'd made a mistake. The only problem with pet memoirs is that there's usually a heartbreaking if predictable ending. I tend to do most of my reading at work on my lunch breaks, and so a sob-inducing ending is something to be avoided. When I was selected to receive an advance-review copy of Homer's Odyssey, I was quite pleased, but set it aside to read in the evenings at home. But then I read the prologue, which talks about Homer in the present-tense, and it gave me hope that the book was work-safe.
When she met Homer, Gwen Cooper was living with a friend, trying to figure out where her life was headed after a breakup with the man she'd assumed to be "the one." Already a cat person, she was sharing her life with one-person-cat Scarlett (so named because when she was found, she was so dehydrated that she was prone to fainting spells. And if that's not the greatest cat-naming story ever, I don't know what is.) and sweet beauty Vashti. Even as she drove to the vet to meet Homer -- in desperate need of a home after losing his eyes to a life-threatening infection at two weeks of age -- Gwen was aware of the reasons she shouldn't adopt another cat, but as soon as she met him, her fate was fixed. Touched by Homer's resilience, heart, and literal blind trust, Gwen agreed at once to take him home.
The story moves smoothly through the months and years of Gwen's life with her now three cats, chronicling her realization that a nonprofit salary will not be enough to make her self-sufficient, her difficult decision to swallow her pride and move back in with her parents while she re-aligns her career path (perfectly described as a "break-glass-in-case-of-emergency scenario"), and her eventual move to New York City. Even though the story is largely about Homer, the blind cat who never spends a day of his life believing that he is disabled, the story is also about the people whose lives are touched by Homer. Everyone he meets (with the exception of one horrible first-date) is not only won over, but instantly converted to dyed-in-the-wool Homer fandom. And the story is ultimately about Gwen. Without getting too schmaltzy, she relates the ways in which Homer teaches her about, well, life and love.
Cooper is a great writer, blending insight with humor to create a book that is a fast read but not fluff, touching but not cheesy, and ultimately extremely satisfying. And best of all -- spoiler -- no pets die at the end of the book! There is a close call near the end that made me worry, but all three cats are alive and well at the close of the story. There were several sweet moments that made me a little sniffly, and the scenes of Gwen fleeing Manhattan on foot in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and then spending several days trying to get back to her cats, trapped in her apartment only a few blocks from Ground Zero, had me fighting tears. The difficult moments are never played as cheap tear-jerkers, though, which I greatly appreciated.
I loved Homer's Odyssey. In fact, upon receiving it, I was planning to use it as a giveaway book for BBAW, but as soon as I finished it, I couldn't bear the thought of giving it away. I already had a list of people I wanted to loan it to, and I wanted to be able to re-read it someday. On a whim, I emailed Cooper's editor, and she was kind enough to arrange for another copy to be sent just for this giveaway. How rad is that?
To enter to win, leave a comment on this post and tell me either your favorite animal-related memoir or a favorite pet story / memory of your own. You have until Friday (September 18th) at midnight to comment, and sometime after that, I'll put all the entries into random.org and choose one winner. The giveaway is only open to residents of the US and Canada, and you must include a valid email address to be eligible.
For other great BBAW giveaways, go here. To purchase a copy of Homer's Odyssey if you don't win (or if you do but need another copy to give as a gift), go here.
And finally, check back here later in the week...I'm planning to do at least one other giveaway, and maybe more!