Published by Bantam on January 15, 2013
Source: Goodreads giveaway
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Also by this author: Homer's Odyssey
From the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Homer’s Odyssey comes a tender, joyful, utterly unforgettable novel, primarily told through the eyes of the most observant member of any human family: the cat.
Humans best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’s right in front of you is to back up before you pounce.
So notes Prudence, the irresistible brown tabby at the center of Gwen Cooper’s tender, joyful, utterly unforgettable novel, which is mostly told through the eyes of this curious (and occasionally cranky) feline.
When five-week-old Prudence meets a woman named Sarah in a deserted construction site on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she knows she’s found the human she was meant to adopt. For three years their lives are filled with laughter, tuna, catnaps, music, and the unchanging routines Prudence craves. Then one day Sarah doesn’t come home. From Prudence’s perch on the windowsill she sees Laura, the daughter who hardly ever comes to visit Sarah, arrive with her new husband. They’re carrying boxes. Before they even get to the front door, Prudence realizes that her life has changed forever.
Suddenly Prudence finds herself living in a strange apartment with humans she barely knows. It could take years to train them in the feline courtesies and customs (for example, a cat should always be fed before the humans, and at the same exact time every day) that Sarah understood so well. Prudence clings to the hope that Sarah will come back for her while Laura, a rising young corporate attorney, tries to push away memories of her mother and the tumultuous childhood spent in her mother’s dusty downtown record store. But the secret joys, past hurts, and life-changing moments that make every mother-daughter relationship special will come to the surface. With Prudence’s help Laura will learn that the past, like a mother’s love, never dies.
Poignant, insightful, and laugh-out-loud funny, Love Saves the Day is a story of hope, healing, and how the love of an animal can make all of us better humans. It’s the story of a mother and daughter divided by the turmoil of bohemian New York, and the opinionated, irrepressible feline who will become the bridge between them. It’s a novel for anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, wondered what their cat was really thinking, or fallen asleep with a purring feline nestled in their arms. Prudence, a cat like no other, is sure to steal your heart.
I received a review copy of this book from Goodreads giveaway.
I absolutely loved Gwen Cooper’s first novel, Love Saves the Day. To be honest, when I read that one of the main characters was a cat, I was expecting something cute or overly sweet, but this book is neither. It’s warm and down-to-earth and sometimes heart-wrenching, and the characters, even Prudence the cat — no, especially Prudence — are completely real and believable.
The narrative jumps back and forth between three points of view and almost thirty years of living. Prudence and Sarah tell their stories in their own words, while the sections about Laura — arguably the main character — are told in third person limited. Prudence’s voice is perfect (I’m tempted to say “purrfect”.) Cooper has captured exactly how I imagine a cat would think and talk, if they could. That’s probably not surprising, given that her first book was Homer’s Odyssey, the story of her blind cat. (I reviewed it here.)
Sarah’s narration partway through the book came as a surprise to me, because you realize quite quickly that Sarah is dead; how Prudence and Laura deal with her death are two of the central elements of the book. But Sarah narrates not in the present, as a ghost, but from the past, which works surprisingly well. The sections focusing on Laura are equally well-written, and the third-person viewpoint emphasizes the distance Laura kept between herself and Sarah, and then Prudence.
The secondary characters are just as believable, though not as thoroughly fleshed out as Prudence, Laura, and Sarah. I really liked Laura’s husband Josh, who is a good partner for her. Their marriage is strong, but not idyllic; they argue realistically, and his job loss and her long hours take a noticeable toll. Free-spirited rocker Anise, Sarah’s best friend, appears in person only toward the end, but she’s a significant presence in both Sarah and Prudence’s memories.
It’s not just the characters that are well-drawn. Cooper expertly evokes New York, particularly the Lower East Side, Laura’s childhood home. Reading the book, the sights, sounds, and even smells of the city came alive. They provide a vivid backdrop to the novel’s theme of grief, anger, love, and healing.
I loved the time I spent with Prudence, Sarah, and Laura. Love Saves the Day is a keeper.