97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
From the moment I turned the final page of Gwen Cooper's New York Times bestseller, Homer's Odyssey, I was hoping that Cooper would write another cat themed book. When I heard her read the first chapter of Love Saves the Day at a local event this past September, I knew this book was something very special. A book like this doesn't come along every day.
Love Saves the Day is a novel written from three points of view. The primary narrator is Prudence, a brown tabby rescued from a deserted construction site on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Prudence is a keen observer of humans and knows them better than they know themselves at times. "Humans best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that's right in front of you is to back up before you pounce." You'll find yourself smiling, and sometimes laughing out loud, at Prudence's insight into human nature and astute descriptions of her world. From the "wonderful heated cat bed" in a place called "Home Office," to Prudence's dismissal of a self-cleaning litterbox ("It scared me so much that I started going on the living room rug just to avoid it") Cooper's love for cats and understanding of their nature and emotional lives, tempered with a sense of humor, is evident throughout the book.
Loves Saves the Day begins when one day Sarah, Prudence's human, doesn't come home from work. Prudence's world falls apart. For a few days, a neighbor feeds her, then Sarah's daugher Laura, who hardly ever came to visit, arrives with her husband. They're both carrying boxes. Suddenly, Prudence finds herself living in an unfamiliar apartment with two humans who she barely knows, and who don't seem to understand cats. Prudence realizes that it could take years to train them in the way of cats.
Prudence spends most of her days near the boxes with Sarah's things in a spare bedroom in the new apartment, grieving for Sarah, trying to hang on to her memories and find comfort by being close to the things that still smell like Sarah. Meanwhile, Laura tries to push away anything that reminds her of her mother and her childhood spent in the midst of the Lower East Side music scene of the 1970s. Told from the three alternating points of view - Prudence's, Laura's and Sarah's - the past of a troubled mother-daughter relationship is revealed, culminating in one defining moment that changes the trajectory of everyone's lives.
The best writers paint a picture with their words. In Love Saves the Day, Cooper masterfully paints a sweeping emotional landscape with a gentle, light touch. She effortlessly switches back and forth between the three different voices, but I think it's a testament to how well she captured Prudence's voice that I found myself thinking about how Prudence would tell even the parts of the story that are written from Laura or Sarah's point of view.
Cooper presents a lot of different topics in this novel: Prudence at the center of the book, the music scene of the 1970s in Lower Manhattan, the issue of what happens to pets whose guardians die, the real life event of a building on the Lower East Side that was demolished in 1998 and plays a pivotal role in the story, and a complicated mother daughter relationship that crosses several decades. Cooper weaves all of these threads into a beautiful, cohesive whole.
Hauntingly beautiful, heart touching, and at times painfully raw, this is a story about grief, hope and healing. It's a story about the importance of memories, and of preserving a part of one's past. It is the story of a mother daughter relationship that shows that deep rifts can be mended even after death. But ultimately, this is a book about love, and how one small cat, through her mere presence, can change multiple lives.
This book will stay with you long after you turn the final page. And it already makes me look forward to Gwen Cooper's next book.
68 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2013
I found myself unable to review Gwen Cooper's new novel Love Saves the Day on publication as it was too close to the loss of someone very dear to me, and I feared conveying that sort of emotional rawness. Now I can say, reasonably calmly, that this is a wise, moving, witty, literate, precisely observed tale: it has all the best qualities of observation, storytelling, and cat knowledge that made Homer's Odyssey stand out among the plethora of recent cat-related books. While moving into new territory as a writer, Cooper retains two of what seem her key themes: coming of age at the turn of the millennium, and learning about oneself through responding to/caring for cats.
Prudence the cat's point of view sets up and drives the story in wonderful ways: we get quirky details of the habits and preoccupations of the principal human characters (Laura, her husband Josh, and her mother Sarah), so that by the time we get into their heads, we feel we know things about them they don't (yet) realize themselves. It also forces us to reconsider perspective, as Prudence navigates her environments from the vacant lot where she is rescued as a kitten, to Sarah's bohemian apartment and life as a mature, somewhat disorganized single woman of various passions, to Laura and Josh's posh if somewhat spartan apartment and the tense growing pains of their marriage. Prudence is herself a fully realized character, accessible and complex, yet not anthropomorphic: she retains her feline integrity throughout and if you've ever lived with a cat, you will nod in agreement often at her insights.
Yet this is also a vigorous portrait of Cooper's adopted city of New York, and a cross-section of various lives therein: the ambitious professional class, the self-employed, the bohemian collectors of vintage vinyl records who sing along to the music they love to dance to in clubs, the underclass at the mercy of creditors, property managers, and unthinking/unfeeling policies. (One of the most poignant aspects for me was realizing Sarah was only a little younger than I am now, and we both have very fond memories of the style and music of the glam/punk/new wave eras and a sound appreciation for indie music and culture.)
Ultimately this is a story about growth. It's not purely plot driven; it's not a "problem" novel with functional characters who reach a resolution. It's about Sarah coming to terms with mortality, and Laura learning to break out of the fearful shell that led to her fierce embrace of security and convention, and Josh needing to see beyond his privilege and test his values through experience.
And the details are so wonderfully precise! I'm thinking of Sarah and her friend dressing up, of the calamitous dinner with Josh's parents, of Laura's impulse to create a bed in Prudence's hiding place with one of Sarah's old glam dresses, of Prudence's careful observation of the human food available versus the healthy organic cat food set as her diet in her new household.
This is a deeply moving story about grief and change and loss and hope and love, and I so look forward to Gwen Cooper's next novel.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2013
This is by far the hardest review I've ever had to write; how do you do a book justice that has so completely touched your soul? In a word it is exquisite. I've spent the last few nights reading until the wee hours, savoring each and every word dreading the moment it would end. Every moment I wasn't reading it I was aching to get back to it, unable to stop thinking about it. I will never forget these characters or this story...it has a forever home on my keeper shelf and in my heart.
Sweet little Prudence has completely stolen my heart. Her voice and the way she sees us crazy humans is exactly how I would imagine a cat's thought process to be. It is obviously how Gwen Cooper knows cats. Some of her observations had me laughing out loud, while others simply broke my heart. The pets left behind when an owner dies don't understand why they've been abandoned, and the way Prudence spent every moment in her new home surrounded by the Sarah-boxes, thinking that if she kept remembering Sarah she would return, fearing that if the scent of her and Sarah together disappeared Sarah would never find her way back...everytime I think about it I get a lump in my throat. Prudence's simple view of love is something we could all learn from; the love only a pet can provide.
Sarah and Laura's relationship teared me up as well, mostly because my own mother is my best friend in the world and I can't imagine not having this extremely important relationship in my life. I kept wondering what could have happened to drive such a wedge between a mother and daughter that had once been so close, knowing only that it had something to do with their neighbors the Mandelbaums and their cat Honey, and when the reason was revealed I was stunned. And to think the event is based on something that really happened is just unthinkable. It made the whole picture so much clearer, and showed that the circumstances surrounding Sarah rescuing Prudence were meant to be. The love and magic of one little brown tabby was meant to change so many lives.
I can pretty much guarantee you will need a box of tissues when you read this book, but you will also be filled with the hope, healing, and love that Prudence, Laura, and Sarah discover and make you want to hold your two and four legged loved ones a little tighter. It is sure to be a classic for anyone who loves a beautifully written story about the relationships that make up our lives, destined to be a cherished re-read because there is so much wisdom about love and life contained in it's pages you will want to absorb them again and again. I can't help thinking what a beautiful movie this would be.
Prudence now has her own special place in my heart right alongside my own beloved pets...she feels that real to me.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2013
What a literary treat! Gwen Cooper's newest book, Love Saves The Day, is an amazing tour de force, blending a poignant portrait of human relationships of various types which have gone off track along the way, and the wisdom of the cat named Prudence who with humor makes sense of it all in a way humans never quite can. Exploring lost love, broken dreams, love, friendship, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, through human eyes is the main story, but the human tale is interspersed with chapters by Prudence, the leading lady cat of the story, who is a wise observer and participant, trying to make sense of the chaos that humans make of their lives until they remember that love is the saving grace that binds them all back together again, heals hearts and souls, and rewards faithful kitties and their various lost humans. This is a beautifully crafted, imaginative novel which demonstrates the author's understanding of human hearts and of the wisdom of cats and all they have to teach us. This is an absolutely wonderful book which I will read and re-read.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I haven't read Homer's Odyssey, though I'm told I should, so when this novel came up, I grabbed it.
The story is about Prudence the cat who was rescued as a kitten by her human Sarah...the novel opens with Prudence in Sarah's apartment, not understanding that Sarah is dead.
The story alternates between following Prudence and the human characters, including flashbacks to Sarah.
It's not quite the cutesy cat tale I had expected though - Prudence is charming, but the novel itself was very much a study of the human relationships, particularly between mother and daughter who through a traumatic event in the past, have an unsettled distance, and between the daughter and her husband as they go through career and financial changes due to the down economy. To me, those parts were draggy and not really what I was hoping to get out of this novel. They were readable, but had very little to do with the cat who, for much of this part was merely in the background.
As for Prudence, it was an interesting take on cat love and grief...obviously speculative, but touching.
The traumatic event in the daughter's past also involves a cat and is based on a historical event, but I did find it sad and disturbing...kind of overshadowing the positive feelings that some of the other healing and love engendered.
Some readers will definitely enjoy it, but know what you're getting into is not a story exclusively about a cat...in many ways Prudence's story is only one of three in this book (the other two being mother/daughter and husband/wife issues and resolution).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2013
"Love Saves the Day" is a beautifully expressed story; I won't reiterate the basis of it since other posters already have. Suffice it to say I was drawn in immediately and was literally unable to put the book down. I began devouring it as quickly as I could and of course when I got close to the conclusion, I slowed down because I just couldn't bear for it to end.
The pace of the story is absolutely perfect from start to finish, and that makes it so compelling. It made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me smile and chuckle, it made me think and feel. Prudence's thoughts are so charming and humorous, but make no mistake....this isn't another sappy cat story. It's a tale about the true meaning of family, and how the love of a cat can influence generations.
The story is also about loss, grief and healing. As a hospice/bereavement volunteer of many years, I can honestly say that Ms. Cooper knows all the fine points of loss and expresses them in the most touching ways. Some of Prudence's thoughts and feelings are painfully tender and sad, yet so very honest; nothing was held back, which is how it should be. The pain of loss is real. On a personal note, my kitty Isabel was given to me by one of my patient's families many years ago, and now I know exactly how she felt when she had to leave her home. Also, my dad was a musician long ago and spent time in the Lower East side, which brought back a flood of wonderful memories.
The material was obviously well researched, and that led to a few unpredictable happenings in the story, which gave it that much more meaning. It seems as if it would be difficult to express the inner thoughts of a cat but through Ms. Cooper's descriptive gift with words, it seems like the most natural thing to read Prudence's ideas.
I cannot say enough about "Love Saves the Day"! What a remarkable, well written book. I can't wait for the next one!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The heroine of Gwen Cooper's "Love Saves the Day," is a polydactyl tabby, Prudence, experiencing every pet's worst nightmare when her human, Sarah, does not return home. She is moved to a new house where Sarah's daughter, Laura and her husband, Josh, live. Not a people cat, Prudence is slow to trust her new humans and spends most of her time in the spare room with the "Sarah boxes," trying to hold onto her memories. Laura, a workaholic lawyer, and Josh, who is trying to find a new job after being downsized, have problems of their own, and at first, Prudence keeps her distance. She recognizes Laura, as one of Sarah's "kittens," who came infrequently to their old place, and who seems to have a distant relationship with her mother. In fact, Sarah, the single-mom owner of a record store in the Lower East Side in the eighties, and her daughter were once close, until a traumatic event resulting in the loss of their home pushed them apart. Though Josh is eager to go through Sarah's things, particularly her music mementoes (the "black disks") and find out more about his wife's youth, Sarah is reluctant and finds reasons to postpone this. But when Josh begins a project trying to save a condemned building, Sarah begins to sift through the past. With Prudence's help, the two humans will begin to reevaluate their priorities, both personal and professional, address issues in their marriage that they have long ignored or downplayed, and in doing so, forge a deeper relationship.
Although it is partly narrated by a cat, I did not (for the most part) find any of it cloying or overly cute. In fact, the narration is shared by Laura and Sarah (despite her being deceased). At first, we are given a cat's eye view into the world; later we shift into reminesces of the past and then interpersonal conflicts in the present. As Josh begins his involvement with a building project, the drama heats up. When Prudence herself experiences trauma, the book almost slips into melodrama, however, is saved by an ending which is upbeat but leaves enough things ambiguous to avoid being too sentimental. "Love Saves the Day," is a powerfully moving story about family ties, that even people (as Cleveland Amory might put it), not lucky enough to be owned by a cat, will enjoy.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2013
Love Saves The Day is a treasure of a book. At times it zings your heart so hard that it aches, but the end gives you faith in the forever power of love. Gwen Cooper is an amazingly gifted writer! When I finished Homer's Odyssey and found myself immediately going back to page 1 and reading it again (something I've never done before in my life!), I knew that she was special, both as a storyteller and a person who understands the world of cats. Now she's given us the gift of Prudence, a cat with an innocent yet wise perspective on love and life. This is truly one of the best stories about families and love I've ever read, and I recommend it to all.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2013
Prudence is a brownish tabby cat. Sarah is her Most Important Person. Laura is Sarah's daughter. Josh is Laura's husband. Simple enough, right? No. Life is never simple even when seen through the eyes of a precocious cat who just doesn't understand why her Most Important Person hasn't come home and why she needs to learn to trust someone else. More than a story told by a cat about a cat and its humans~~this is a story about the relationships between a mother and daughter and between a husband and wife and the way that a moment in time can change everything for everyone. I love the way that the author blends all of these relationships together. I laughed (hard) at some of the scenes with Prudence and her cranky and sanctimonious ways. And I cried (hard) when the scene unfolded that changed all of their lives forever. Maybe I'm giving this book 5 stars because I happen to think I understand the mentality of my cats (when they allow me to understand) and feel that the author 'gets' cats (and humans) too. But more than that, the author 'gets' relationships and how the ripple effect happens. Though this book is fiction, there is a paragraph at the end of the book that deals with fact. You. Will. Cry.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
As others have already retold the plot line in detail I won't do so here, however I will say this book was not what I expected, it was even better. I love animals and I love reading cat stories (Homer's Odyssey and Dewey are two of my favorites) so I was expecting to like this cat story by the author of Homer's Odyssey. After the first chapter I was already in love with the cat in this story, Prudence, and felt invested in finding out what would happen to her (as it is made pretty obvious that Sarah her Most Important Person has died and Prudence doesn't know it yet). As you read you become more and more involved in the other people in Prudence's life and how they will come together to deal with Sarah's passing (among other problems) as the book moves from being narrated solely by Prudence to adding additional narrators and even a couple of chapters by Sarah. This book is more about relationships and dealing with grief than a cute fuzzy cat story- but it has become one of my favorite books. I highly recommend this book for anyone that loves animals- or that might be dealing with a death.