I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper a week or so ago. As I have mentioned before, I am more of a fiction buff. However, and perhaps I haven’t mentioned this before, I am also a hugely devoted cat-person. As Homer’s Odyssey is more or less the biography of a blind cat, I was sold. Of course, the book wasn’t exclusively Homer’s biography; it was additionally the memoir of Gwen, his owner and biggest fan.
You may be wondering what could be so interesting about a blind cat. I mean, what does a blind cat do, anyway? I was pleased and surprised to learn that this particular blind cat was able to do anything a cat with perfect vision could do, and more. Homer’s tale began when he was found as an abandoned kitten with a virulent eye infection. His saviors, realizing that his condition was grave, turned him over to their veterinarian, upon learning his prognosis (he will live, but he will be unable to see. His eyes will have to be removed to save his life). After performing the surgery that would both save his life and forever alter his path, the vet began the process of finding a home for the tiny, perhaps 4 week old blind kitten. At first, it seemed like there would be no takers. However, when she contacted Gwen (already mother to two cats), she found the kitten’s new home.
Falling immediately in love with the unfortunate little guy, Gwen sets out on a journey of parenting and devotion that will change the course of her life. In her twenties, and fearful of becoming the crazy cat lady of lore, Gwen and her three cats embark on a journey that will take them from Florida to New York, through several jobs and guys, and build each of their character as a result. Homer’s Odyssey also gives us a unique perspective of the impact of 9/11 on the pet owners close to Ground Zero. It was something I had never considered, but reading Gwen’s recounting of the events made me realize that the aftermath of the horrible day had an impact in ways that I had never even imagined.
In addition to the profound and emotional retelling of the events of 9/11 from the point of view of someone who experienced them first hand, the book is rich with recollections of countless everyday events in Homer’s extraordinary life. From the simple ways he reconciles with his inability to see, and refuses to let it slow him down to the ways that Homer’s blindness impacts him that he doesn’t even realize. (Think sneaking up on your target from the front, and not understanding how they avoid your assault every time.) I challenge you to read Homer’s story and not fall hopelessly in love with this little cat.
All in all, in reading Homer’s story, I became yet another of his devoted fans. And, whether you are a cat person or not, I believe that reading Homer’s story will speak to you profoundly about the endurance of the spirit, whether human or otherwise. I have to give Homer’s Odyssey a five star rating, for both its entertainment value and its ability to induce the tearing up of unsuspecting eyes. (One of my favorite parts was the thumbnail pictures of Homer and his sisters that adorned each new chapter.) I would recommend Homer’s story to pet lovers and memoir buffs alike.