Published By: Algonquin Books
Length: 285 pp.
Reason for Reading: I am a cat fanatic and loved the author's first book.
Brief Summary: In the third memoir about his pets, Bob Tarte focuses on the cats that have invaded his home and heart. The Tartes have 6 cats, all of whom were rescued in some way. The author begins by describing a cat who charmed him more than most and then goes back to describe how each of the cats entered his family. Although they have many other pets, the birds take a backseat in this book. But, if you've read either of his other books, you'll appreciate the occasional references to them.
A side note: The author wrote to me and asked if I'd be willing to review this book. I generally try to avoid accepting books directly from authors, but I absolutely loved Enslaved by Ducks and the fact that the book is about cats would have probably been enough to sway me.
What I loved about Kitty Cornered:
I found myself relating to the author's joys and frustrations with cat ownership. The six cats are named Agnes, Frannie, Lucy, Maynard, Moobie and Tina. He talks about their individual personalities, how they interact with each other and how each cat became a part of the family plus loads of anecdotes about how the Tartes have had to alter their lives to fit cats into the equation. In the front of the book, the author has nicely provided a schematic of the main floor of his home that includes labels showing such things as the location of an inconveniently-placed litterbox, the chair that has been commandeered by one of the cats, the stairs where another routinely trips the author, etc.
There is also a "Cats of Characters" list. Haha. There's an example of the author's sense of humor, for you. Since there are so many cats and the house is almost a character in and of itself, both the floor plan and descriptions of the cats are very helpful. I routinely flipped back to remind myself which cat was which, although eventually you do get to know them as individuals and the cast reference is no longer necessary.
Kitty Cornered is heartwarming and lively. The author acknowledges the intelligence of cats and beautifully describes their individual personalities with affection and humor. Although he sometimes longs for them to behave just a little different, he respects their personalities. The story does jump backward in time after describing Frannie's arrival, but it's handled well. By the time you've gotten to know Frannie, you'll be eager to hear how Bob and his wife Linda ended up with so many cats in the first place.
Our cats have all been rescues. Miss Spooky came from the Humane Society; Sunshine, aka "Shiny", was a stray who was foisted on us by my eldest son's teacher; Fiona was fostered and displayed at a Petsmart (where we like to say she found and adopted us); and, Isabel was dumped outside our veterinary clinic and held for me by one of the vet techs, who knew I wanted a companion for Fiona.
Bob Tarte's cats came to him in similar fashion. One of them was rejected by his owner's boyfriend, which is exactly what happened to Fiona. She was found by a highway, fostered, adopted, unadopted because of a boyfriend, fostered again, and then adopted us. So, it's only natural that I found myself relating to Bob's stories and appreciating his deep compassion for the cats in his life.
What I disliked about Kitty Cornered:
I mentioned in my review of Enslaved by Ducks that the author's sense of humor occasionally got on my nerves. He's a pretty silly guy and writes very much like I used to write (my own sense of humor actually irritates me -- weird, but true). This time, I didn't ever feel like I needed to set the book aside to take a break from it, but I still did find his sense of humor a little overwhelming. That is a very minor complaint, though. The cat stories are too enjoyable to let such a little thing turn me off.
Another frustration -- something that has only become a frustration in recent years -- is the fact that the author's cats are indoor/outdoor pets. Spooky and Sunshine were both allowed outdoors because I was raised with cats that spent a great deal of their time outside. However, Shiny eventually decided the outdoor world was too frightening, while Miss Spooky insisted on outdoor time to the end of her days and was, in fact, injured several times. Spooky's injuries were enough to convince me that cats belong indoors. It didn't occur to me, as a younger pet owner, that cats can be perfectly happy indoors. Now, I'm rather opinionated about the need to keep cats indoors and dogs behind fences for the safety of both.
Update: The author has noted the fact that his cats are now kept indoors, in a comment to this post. Wahoo! I'm very excited about that. Having fallen a little bit in love with his kitties, I'm thrilled to know that they're in a safer place and have adjusted nicely. Thanks for the update, Bob!
4/5 - Recommended especially to cat lovers, people who enjoy reading true tales about animals (pets or otherwise) and folks who like memoirs with a very light, entertaining writing style. Kitty Cornered will be released April 10, 2012.
I missed out on a great cat shot, today. Isabel and Fiona were curled up next to each other on my bed with Izzy's nose tucked under Fi's chin. Unfortunately, if the camera isn't handy there's no way I can capture them in any pose. The moment I rise they're awake and following me. Darn. Fiona at least satisfied my urge to snap by exploring the printer shelf. Good kitty.
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This sounds like a book I would love!ReplyDelete
Probably so, Kathy! They are true animal lovers.Delete
I'm guessing I'd like this book but now I'm all curious if the authors sense of humor would bug me too. ;)ReplyDelete
It's a minor thing, Jenny. I wouldn't avoid the book because of his sense of humor, even though it can irritate a bit. The bottom line is that it's an enjoyable read because the cats are such characters.Delete
How can somebody be too funny? I spend so much of my day advocating for animals in trouble (dog rescuer here), that I really need a way to decompress - and the sillier the better. I read a review copy of this book and can't count how many times I laughed out loud. I liked it so well I read it again as soon as I was finished the first time!Delete
I guess it's just the personal style of humor, but like I said -- not a big thing. I'm pretty sure it's just too close to my own writing style, when I write humor. Weird, but true. Kitty Cornered is definitely loads of laughs and worth keeping for a reread. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much that you read it again, immediately! I love Bob Tarte's books and hope Kitty Cornered gets the attention it deserves.Delete
I'm going to have to look for this one when it comes out! I did like his first book, and I always love reading about cats!ReplyDelete
Me, too, Jeane! I can never pass up a cat book. Hope you enjoy it as much as you liked the first.Delete
My husband and I read and loved Enslaved by Ducks together, and I have been wanting to read more from the author. I have a few kitties of my own, and think that I would relate to this story as well. Great review on this one. It sounds like something that might make for another great joint read with the hubby!ReplyDelete
That's always so fun (but rare in our house) to read and discuss with your spouse. My husband and I have such wildly different taste that reading the same book doesn't happen often, but we've read and discussed a few business and history books. Love, love, love it when we can share! I hope you do grab a copy of this one and share it with your hubby!Delete
Thanks so much for your really generous review of my book. I wanted to let you know that we now have zero outdoor cats. Last summer we made the decision to keep everyone indoors all of the time, because we kept worrying about their safety. I was afraid that our former stray Frannie wouldn't be happy as an indoor cat, but she has adapted beautifully.ReplyDelete
Oh, Bob, that's so exciting!!! That is exactly why we chose to make our kitties indoors-only. Too many worries with indoor/outdoor cats. We don't even have leash laws, here, so our Miss Spooky had a dangerously close call when she was attacked by a pack (she barely escaped into a holly bush). On reflection, I'm a little shocked at myself for allowing our first two kitties to go outside, but I guess it takes a bad experience or two to learn that lesson. I'm so glad to know Frannie has adapted well. Because of your obvious adoration for her, I'm kind of in love with her, myself. :)Delete
Wonderful review and so happy to hear that all the kitties are now indoor only!!ReplyDelete
♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf
Thanks, Melissa! Me, too! So happy to hear that the kitties are kept safely indoors, now.Delete