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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SBG daily ~ Right Place, Right Time

SBG coverBusy busy busy!  I’ve just hooked up my new birthday computer and ordered Pizza Hut for supper.  My hands were filthy from all the dust bunnies that had collected in the old computer and under all the snakes (wires).  I took off the cover on the old tower and cleaned all the dust and fuzz out of it, which must’ve been at least an inch thick.  Maybe that’s why it was running slow?  THIS is the first post written on my new computer, and I must say YAY!! 🙂

So, today’s Something Beyond Greatness daily post is a continuation of yesterdays, or rather, an expounding of it.  In the book, the authors give a formula for greatness.  One part is the ability to see with love, to see the person you’re helping as a person belonging to you in some way.  For instance, when you see the commercial of the child scrounging through the garbage for dinner, do you see a child who needs help and are moved to do something?  Or, and this is the category I fall in, do you see a camera crew who has dinners provided, a host trying to convince you to send him (or her) money so they can “help” them (they’ll give a kid a sandwich, and take the rest of the money to Rio, I bet).  Okay, so the commercials don’t work on me, but I help the missions at church and “adopted” a child or two in Uganda and Brazil.

A second part of the equation is what I talked about yesterday, Instrument Consciousness.  Being open and willing to be used to do a kind act.  I ran into the house, even though it was on fire, and pushed the people out the door.  The third part is that of Destiny, fate, or the design of the supreme being, God’s Will.  Being in the right place at the right time.  This is the part we’re discussing today.  It’s this part that’s the most humbling of the process and what makes a person an instrument and NOT a hero.

For a long time, and even now, so many things about that night just leaves me in awe… not of what I did, but of the odds that I was even able to help.   First off, I was on the phone with my mom at that time of night, because the cell service I had provided free calls after 9 at night.  That particular night, I was even later than normal to call because the kids were late to bed.  Normally, I would have been inside and in bed by then.  I was outside on the porch talking because I have a weird Bermuda cell zone in my house and I had to go outside to get reception.  I had moved my chair to where I was sitting because the door we had been using (our house has 2 front doors) had gotten stuck in the frame and we couldn’t use it and I had slid the lawn chair in front of the stuck door. 

Now, all that put me in the right spot on my front porch to see the glow of the fire between the houses across from me.  Six inches either way, and I would’ve only seen the houses.  AND it put me on the porch at the right time to have seen it.  Add to it that I’m nosy by nature and HAD to check out the weird light, and I was in the right place at the right time.

Now, at that time of night, the neighbors hadn’t noticed because first shift workers were in bed and those on the second shift were still at work and wouldn’t have seen it for another hour at least.  So, if I hadn’t been in that exact spot on my porch at that time, the kids whose bedrooms were on the second floor would’ve been overcome by smoke and possibly died, if they had had to wait for second-shifters to come home and call 911.

It’s all the what ifs and maybes, the overwhelming amount of coincidences (if you believe in coincidences like that) that humble me and leave me in awe.  I wasn’t a hero.  I was in the right place at the right time and I had no choice, I had to act.  I had to help.  To choose to walk away would’ve been unthinkable.  The lady hugged me and cried and held on to me for a good fifteen minutes.  In the end, there was no mention of me in the papers, no ceremony or parade in my honor.  I think the firemen who do that sort of thing ON PURPOSE as a career are real heroes.  The people going UP the stairs on September 11, 2001 while everyone was going down, away from the blazing, steel-warping inferno… those people are heroes.  People who join the military to protect their county and help to bring freedom to others, they are the real heroes.

So, has there ever been a time where you were in the right place at the right time to help someone?

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Something Beyond Greatness, and comment here for an extra entry