Cats & Daughters

Author: Helen Brown

Published By: Kensington Publishing Corp

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                Ever since reading Cleo, I have been a fan of Helen Brown's writing.  Cleo was about a cat that came into the author's life at a time when her family truly needed her.  Helping the Brown family recover from the loss of a child, the end of a marriage, the beginning of another and a move from their home in New Zealand to a new home in Australia, Cleo was definitely a special cat.  Helen Brown's follow-up book, Cats and Daughters, is about another transition in the author's life and another special cat who helped her through it all.

                Set shortly after Cleo's death at the age of about twenty four, Helen Brown is just about to embark on a journey she could never have imagined for herself.  After losing such a terrific friend and family member, Brown decided it might be time to move on to a home closer to her husband Philip's job.  Despite the urgings of many friends and family members, Helen decides she is not ready for another cat, so the move is cat free, but not without some grief.  The chosen house is quirky, but Helen, her husband and two daughters, Lydia and Katharine, begin quickly setting about making it their home.

                Just when Helen thinks things are settling back to normal, Lydia decides to become even more involved in Buddhism.  Though Helen is not certain if this is the best thing for Lydia, she is willing to allow her daughter some freedom to make her own choices.  Then, Helen has a brush with the word just about everyone fears - cancer.  As if dealing with the diagnosis and resulting mastectomy weren't enough, Helen learns that her diagnosis has done nothing to dampen Lydia's plans for further enlightenment.  Lydia leaves for Sri Lanka shortly after her mother is diagnosed.

                She does, however, return after her mother's surgery to help with her recovery.  Helen's sister has also come to stay at the Brown home to help out and it is through her that Helen meets Jonah, a Siamese cat with an impressive zest for life.  As cute as a button and full of energy as a kitten, Helen has no idea what she is about to get herself into when she takes Jonah home with her.  Before long, he has already destroyed a number of things in the house, but the family can't help but adore him. 

                As it turns out, Jonah is a much needed asset in Helen's road to recovery.  He is also an important part of Helen's learning to let go of things she has no control over.  Jonah teaches Helen about having a zest for life and a sense of adventure, as well as understanding when things don't go as planned or somehow get peed on.

                I loved reading about Jonah's antics and found it remarkable how similar some of his behaviors are to my own cat Chloe.  Though I don't think she's at the stage where she needs kitty Prozac, I learned that a lot of the methods I use for handling Chloe's behavior are spot on.  And I can definitely attest to the healing powers of a cat, having been helped through life by four special furballs who brought me great joy whenever I was down and nursed me back to health when I was ill.  I am eternally grateful to these kitties and can definitely relate to Helen Brown's story.  Like cats, daughters don't always come when called, but when they do, they light up your life like no one else can and are the treasured pieces that make our hearts whole. 

                Cats and Daughters was a terrific follow-up to Cleo!  You'd better believe I'll be first on line at the bookstore for Helen Brown's next memoir!


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