The last book I’ve read that had anything to do with pets was Katie: Up and Down the Hall. I remember writing something about the book not being so much about Katie than it was about the author and the family he made with his neighbors. And, I have to admit, that made me think twice about starting Cleo.
Thing is, I already bought Cleo before I started reading Katie. And it never came to second-guessing my purchase, only wondering when I would eventually get around to reading it. Well, the Holy Week vacation (we have such a thing here in the Philippines) gave me the time I was looking for, and I have to say I really didn’t have much to fear with Cleo.
The thing with books about pets is that it’s almost never really about the pets. I mean, I found Marley & Me good, and Katie not so good. Cleo, falls somewhere in between the two—but as I went on to finish the book, it moved towards the good end.
Cleo, the book, is much about Cleo the pet as it was about the author’s life. After all, the book’s selling point is how Cleo (the cat) helped heal the author and the people in her life. So it would make sense that many of the anecdotes actually have more to do with the author’s family than just Cleo. And unlike in Katie, where I thought the pet was a storyline moving alongside the author’s life, Cleo actually has a major playing part in her owner’s life.
The book starts with death. One I didn’t expect. The author alluded to it in how she introduced the book, and how she talked about her sons—but, if this were a fictional story, the death was a twist, a blindside. I was surprised; horrified even, by what had happened. But as it is, death was just the beginning—and the beginning was jumpstarted by the appearance of Cleo in the author’s and her family’s lives.
That was a very oddly-constructed sentence.
Throughout the book, we follow the author as she goes through the rollercoaster of life: the loss of a child, raising two others, working to save a marriage, and eventually falling in love again. One can say Helen Brown, the author, has lived a life with enough heartache to spare half-a-dozen people from having to go through the same—but that’s life, isn’t it? It’s never fair. But through it all, the author had one constant companion who never bothered to feel sorry for her, but was always there to listen, to cheer her up, and to tell her to move on: and that was Cleo.
On the book cover, it says that Cleo is the next Marley & Me; I think that’s doing the book a disservice. Cleo is a great book by itself, and it doesn’t need to be compared to any other books. And having finished the book, all I can say is that I wish to find a cat just like Cleo.