Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

homers-odysseyTitle:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat

Author:  Gwen Cooper

Hardback:  289 pages

ISBN:  9780385343855

Challenges:  ARC Challenge

The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever,” never as playful or independent as other cats. But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo, a tiny daredevil with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and leapt five feet into the air to catch flies in mid-buzz. He survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that inspired Gwen daily and transformed her life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized Homer had taught her the most important lesson of all:  Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

Homer’s Odyssey is the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion.  It celebrates the refusal to accept limits -on love, ability, or hope against overwhelming odds.  By turns jubilant and moving, it’s a memoir for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and helplessly in love with a pet.

-Inside dust cover of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Okay… breathe…  I’m going to do my best to review this book on the its merits alone, and not gush about the author herself.  It would be easy for me to go on about how, upon hearing that my daughter, also named Gwen, loves animals and has a black cat, was really excited by the book when I got my advanced reader copy and wanted me to read it to her, emailed me for my address and not only sent her a signed copy of the finished book with a beautiful hand-written card and pictures of Homer, but also sent her a copy of the audio book.  AND that, with all that she’s got going on in her life with book-signings, fundraisers and feeling under the weather, she still takes time message us and even remembers my daughter’s cat’s name.  But this is a review of the book, not the author, so I will focus my attention on that.

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is a memoir of how the things that we might never choose on our own can be exactly what we need.  It is about recognizing value in someone or something and building your life around it.  It is about how, by looking at life and love through the eyes of another, we take on the traits we admire in that person.  In Gwen Cooper’s case, that person was a blind wonder cat, through whom she learned courage, how to love, and perseverance.

One thing I really like about this book is the format.  It’s set up as a journey from who and where Gwen was when she got the call from the vet about the eyeless kitten whom nobody wanted and would likely be put down if she, his last chance, didn’t adopt him, continues through jobs and moves and romances, and ends with what she has learned and insights she has gained through knowing and loving and living with Homer.  But, each chapter is also a tale in and of itself, making it a book that can be devoured straight through (honestly, it’s very hard to put down) or you can nibble on it and ponder each lesson.  Also, each chapter begins with a picture, usually of Homer, but occasionally of Scarlett or Vashti, Homer’s big sisters, and a quote from the other Homer, the Greek storyteller.

Another thing that I enjoyed with this book is Gwen’s sense of humor.  There are so many laugh-out-loud moments,  like bringing her date in and the two of them being greeted by a cat who not only discovered the tampons, but how to unwrap them, proudly carrying them in his mouth to show to his mommy.  Also, there is a quality to her writing that made me feel like we’ve been friends for years.

Like life, though, the book isn’t all sunshine and roses.  There are real dangers and some terrifying moments, like waking up to find a burglar in her apartment.  As well as the heart wrenching days after September 11th, when Gwen tried desperately to get back to her cats who were trapped in their apartment, just blocks from where the two towers had stood.

I found Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper to be moving and inspirational, at times hilarious and touching, and am thankful that there was a vet who refused to accept that an eyeless kitten was better off being put down, that Gwen Cooper was in the vet’s contacts list and opened her heart to him, and that she has shared Homer and his wisdom with all of us.  I give Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s one of my favorites and I’ll be rereading it again and again 🙂

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Something Beyond Greatness by Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine

SBG coverTitle:  Something Beyond Greatness:  Conversations With a Man of Science and a Woman of God

Authors:  Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine

Paperback:  122 pages

ISBN:  9780757307812

Pull up a chair and prepare to be inspired as the Something Beyond Greatness TLC Book Tour pulls in for a stop In the Shadow of Mt. TBR 🙂

First off, I have to say that when I first read about this book, I was expecting something different.  I had understood it to be a book of tales of heroism in the face of danger, stories of people who stood up for what’s right without thought for the consequences, stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi and everyday people.  While it did have a few stories in it, it was more a book about the recipe for such people.

[Great acts have] three elements: (1)seeing with love, (2) acting from the heart, and (3) the mystery of destiny -right place, right time. –page 20

At first, I didn’t think this book was much.  At times it was difficult for me to retain what was being said, which may have to do with the fact it’s been hot and I had walked to the library in the heat to read it there.  But the crazy thing about it is that the info pops out and says boo! now as I’m watching the news, movies, or reading.  There’s this little voice in the back of my mind that analyzes events I encounter through what I’ve read.  AND the whole time reading it, every heroic act I’ve seen or heard or done popped up for application or proof of what I was reading.

The person who will step into greatness must see the others with love, compassion, and concern.  He or she will have a sense of “mine” towards them.  Then he or she must be able to sense or see the way through to help.  Third, this person must have the will to step out and do it.  Usually, this will is recalled by the person afterwards as more of a compulsion, “I just did what anyone else would do.”

Every human being writes a small page in history; every human being -irrespective of how big or how small- writes a small page.  That is real human history. –page 19

My first impulse was to give this book three stars, but after watching it ooze and stew and bubble, I’m thinking it’s much more effective than I first thought and I’m going to give Something Beyond Greatnessby Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine 4 out of 5 stars.

Additional resources for this book are:

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And now, because I think this book is very much a worthwhile read… and, because I somehow got a second book 🙂 … We’re gonna have  a giveaway for a new copy!

This giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm, Saturday July 4th, 2009 with the winner to be announced on next week’s Sunday Salon post (July 5th).  Contest is open worldwide 😀 , as long as you’ve got an address for me to slap on the packaging, you’re welcome to enter!

  1. To enter, leave a comment here letting me know you’d like to win a copy.  This will count as your official entry.
  2. Each day this coming week I will be posting something pertaining to the book, one day will be about stories you’ve heard that inspired you, inspirational movies, acts of greatness you yourself have done or witnessed, etc.  When you comment on the daily posts, you’ll earn a bonus entry!
  3. Post this contest on your blog and leave the link here for an extra entry
  4. Tweet about it, make sure to use @koolaidmom so it’ll show up on my TweetDeck, or leave the link of your update, for an aditional bonus entry.
  5. If you do all the above, commenting everyday, blogging it and tweeting, that’ll be 8 entries and I’ll add 2 more as a bonus, giving you 10 chances to win 🙂 (This post is technically a Monday post for June 29th)

Good Luck!