Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Dewey" by Vicki Myron

After having my share of the Holocaust, time travel, and murder and mayhem, I needed something to warm my soul. Dewey has been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months, waiting until I needed him, and now was the time.

I was born and raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. I grew up surrounded by dozens of cats. Even now, in the big city of Orlando, I have four underfoot. I knew this book was going to touch me. How could it not? Look at that sweet little face, handsome and regal, posing for the camera. I shed my first tear on page 11.

I doubt I need to provide much of a synopsis, but I hate to assume I am the last to read this book. On the coldest morning of one Iowa winter, in the small town of Spencer, Vicky Myron opened up the book return box at the local library to find a tiny, scared, frozen kitten. She gave him a bath (!?), some food, some love, and the rest was history. We cat lovers all think our own kitties are God's gift to us. But this cat really did have something special. He greeted library patrons at the door, sat in the laps of those who needed company or comfort, rode the book cart like it was his personal limo, attended meetings held at the library, and draped himself on the shoulder of anyone willing to let him. He made special connections with the homeless, the disabled, the sick, the lonely. He was calm, patient, and had an innate sense for the people who needed him the most. These are not qualities you often see in the feline persuasion, who are known for their independence, freakishness, and narcisism. For all these reasons, plus alot of karma, this cat became a national and international celebrity. Dewey put Spencer on the map.

You might ask how one could write a whole book about a cat. But there is more to the story than just Dewey. It is about the unique way of life in the heartland, where the library is the center of the community, where everyone looks out for each other. It is about a community that had hit rock bottom, and through it all, adopted this kitty as their innocent, furry mascot. The story is also about the librarian who found Dewey, and how the cat gave her a purpose. Vicki Myron had divorced her alcoholic huband, become a single mom, had lost two family members to cancer and one to suicide, survived breast cancer, become estranged from her daughter, and struggled to get her education while working a full-time job. This cat was her emotional rock to lean on.

How can you put into words what it is like to lose an animal that is such a presence in your life, and in the life of an entire town? (Or in the life of the country, for that matter.) Most of us have been there, felt the impact that a pet can have on your psyche, and perhaps this is why this novel has touched so many. No, this is not classic literature, but I don't think Ms. Myron ever aspired to this. She just wanted to share the story of a little country library cat that touched alot of lives. I dare you to read it and not cry!


Unknown said...

I have seen this book reviewed several times, but as I'm not really a cat person I didn't think I'd like it.

Very few books have moved me to tears - perhaps I should take up your challenge! I'll keep an eye out for it, and let you know if I cry on page 11!!

ANovelMenagerie said...

I did read and review this book last year. It has taken off since then. My daughter is reading it now.

I did like the book. I didn't, however, cry... and I'm Z MAMA of 3 kitties... all boys.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Jackie - You know, I still think the story is engaging, even if cats aren't you cup of tea. I'm not a big crier, but nothing gets to me like dying animals. (I did cry at Bridges of Madison County also.) I lost both my kitty from college and my dog five years ago and I still get emotional thinking about it now!

Sheri - Hmmm. Maybe I'm just a wimp! (haha) As I said above, I lost two of my sweetest babies five years ago, so maybe I have some baggage! I do think I will donate this book to the kids' library. I know my daughter would like it.

Beth F said...

I am one of the few people who haven't read this yet. Your review is absolutely fantastic! Really. I'll have to keep an eye out for this at the library.

Melissa said...

I liked this one too, and there is much more to the story than Dewey!

Anna said...

After my reaction to Marley & Me (I bawled like a baby), I don't think I could read this one. I've always had trouble reading sentimental animal stories. (Makes me wonder what's wrong with me, though. I can't read sad books about animals but I can read Holocaust stories, though I cry reading those, too. I am messed up!)

Diary of an Eccentric

Iliana said...

What a great review, Sandy! And, I totally know what you mean about saving a comfort book to savor after more challenging and/or trying reads. I haven't read Dewey yet but I really want to. It sounds like a great comfort read.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Beth - yeah, I had my radar up for this book at the library, but there were about 80 holds on it. I gave in and bought it.

Melissa - So did you cry?

Anna - I had to avoid the Marley thing (both book and movie) because the doggy I lost five years ago was a lab. I knew I would make a huge fool of myself and be depressed for weeks.

Iliana - This is definitely a curl-up-in-a-chair-on-a-rainy-day book. You can read it in a day or two. Sometimes you need books like this!

Melody said...

I loved this book too! It's so touching!

Anonymous said...

Dewey is really a people cat, isn't he? Not only does he put Spencer, Iowa on the map, he reaches the lives of so many people. I know this is inevitably a feel-good type of book, but little story like this can never fail to make me smile. Now i cannot wait to see the movie. Meryl Streep has accepted the project and she will be Vicki Myron!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - I'm glad you liked this book too! It is nice to read something sweet like this once in awhile!

Matt - I didn't know Meryl Streep signed on as Vicki! I can TOTALLY see her playing this part. Just cut her hair and put some glasses on her, and she's there.