on August 6, 2009
This nonfiction account of the life of Homer the cat is truly heartwarming. Gwen Cooper's writing is superb; it's so warm and personal, I felt like I was reading a story written by a close friend. (For this reason, I'm inclined to refer to her simply as "Gwen" in the rest of my review!) So engaging is this book that I could not put it down and eagerly finished all 300 pages within 24 hours. There's action, adventure, laughter, tears, danger, romance, suspense -- all the "essential" elements of bestselling fiction, but this is not fiction: every part of it is true. That's what makes this story so captivating.
Spoiler-free plot summary: A Miami native in her mid-20s, Gwen adopts her third cat, Homer, a very young, blind kitten that no one wanted. From day one, Homer is a spunky, nimble, demonstrative, fearless little cat. The feats he accomplishes are nothing short of amazing. Gwen decides she wants a better life for herself and her cats than her nonprofit job can provide; she works tirelessly and is eventually able to move to New York. Everyone in her life who meets Homer loves him, and vice versa (with very few exceptions, which you will read about). Gwen ties her own story of love and self-discovery to the life lessons that Homer teaches her.
For those who are extremely sensitive to animal suffering (as I am), you don't need to worry about any abuse, graphic details, or death in this book. When it comes to Homer's blindness, Gwen dispassionately states only the facts that are essential to the story and to the reader's sense of Homer's personality and agility. However, you will probably need a tissue at a few points, as people's sheer kindness, love, and generosity towards Gwen, and particularly Homer, are powerfully touching.
The chapter where Gwen is living in Manhattan's Financial District during 9/11 -- her apartment was on John Street (!) -- was an emotional one for me. With both the reader and Gwen herself acutely aware of the massive human suffering experienced that day, it's deeply moving to read her account of the unimaginable horrors she witnessed and her subsequent efforts to get back into Manhattan to reach her cats (her family). It's important to note, though, that this chapter is not graphic, sappy, or self-pitying in the least. In a technique that people often take on after a catastrophic event, Gwen stays steadfastly focused on the logical steps to reach her cats.
The only part of this book I found tiresome was near the end, where Gwen takes 10 long pages to describe the personality of her love interest in exacting detail. This could have easily been condensed into 2-3 pages while still getting the point across. Although this part has nothing to do with Homer, it will probably appeal to readers who like some romance in their literature.
I loved this book! Although it was poignant at times (not a bad thing), I laughed often and was filled with immense joy while reading it. This is an uplifting, satisfying tale that any cat lover would enjoy.
on September 9, 2009
Well, if the truth be known, Homer IS a special cat. I laughed out loud through most of this heartwarming book. And I even shed a few tender tears. The book is hilarious and unlike one reviewer, I found nothing preachy about it at all. I was on the edge of my seat while reading of her efforts to get back to the apartment after the World Trade Center tragedy. If you liked "Marley and Me", and "Dewey The Library Cat", you will totally love this book and you will shed no sad tears. I had difficulty putting the book down. I have a 3-legged cat and I think she is special. But Homer surpasses everything. This blind cat can really see his way right into one's heart.
Gwen Cooper writes with heart. And that's really all you need to know to dive into her tale of love and growth. For whether you love cats or not (and I do), Gwen's tale is a story that will reach into your heart and stretch your soul.
There's no doubt that Homer, Gwen's eyeless cat, is extraordinary. Life in the dark would have appeared to predestined him to a life lived in quiet corners, but such was not to be. He jumped from heights into the unknown, and, as he did, taught Gwen to act freely and fearlessly in the face of the unknown. How could a tiny, blind cat terrorize a burglar/rapist? And yet, he did. How could he understand human emotions and react to human commands? And yet, he did.
Homer's Odyssey is a tale of an extraordinary cat, but it is so much more than that. It is a tale of growth, of learning to see what's inside (and it's not always beautiful) rather than being blinded by the illusory outside. It is a tale of becoming truly human through contact with a non-human species. It is a tale of acting on "blind" faith, and profiting through those actions. It is a tale of learning to see through the eyes of love.
I have seldom read a book I found so touching and so meaningful. Especially in these turbulent times, you'll find strength through the odyssey of a tiny cat and his mistress.
on August 27, 2012
As a cat, I often find myself considering books on or about cats with trepidation. Regularly, you will come across an author who claims to be an expert on cats - claiming to understand our behaviors, and giving us a voice we didn't ask for. On the occasion that you do find a decent writer who does seem to understand our complex and varied nature, the book will inevitably end with a painful reminder of our own mortality - while this is of course a very useful exercise for all species to become introspective and meditate on the value of our lives - it is simply too much to ask a cat to face this hovering specter of death each and every time we open a book on our species.
Fortunately for everyone, we have Gwen Cooper. Gwen has written a nonfiction book entitled "Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat".
Homer is a true cat's cat. Despite losing his eyesight at a young age, Homer turns this disability into a superpower, never once worrying about what he is missing out on, or fearful of the unknown. Instead, Homer regularly vanquishes resolute foes (such as the common house-fly) by leaping from a standstill and capturing them five feet in mid-air. When placed into a new and unfamiliar territory, Homer will simply proceed along the boundaries of the walls to map out his environment.
While Homer's daily achievements and successes are wonderful, the truly amazing feats come later, such as chasing off a man who breaks into Gwen's apartment in the middle of the night. Homer also faces the terrible tragedy of September 11th, just a few blocks from Ground Zero - Gwen is at work at the time, and has to literally spend days fighting her way through bureaucracy and officials trying to keep people out of the danger zone, while Homer faces the worst day in our Nation's history alone and in the dark.
Throughout the book, we become attuned to Homer's world - we get used to seeing without sight, and we become enveloped in the pure wonder and joy of everything around us. To feel as though we are once again kittens frolicking along the floor, discovering everything with a sense of awe and wonder, playing and pouncing on anything, even simple little dustballs - the journey of awakening these feelings once more is simply priceless.
Homer is an inspiration to cats everywhere. And, for a human, Gwen is pretty okay, too.
-Hank the Cat, 2012
When a two-week old kitten was found and brought into Patricia Khuly's veterinary office, she refused to euthanize him, in spite of the fact that she had to remove his eyes because of a severe eye infection. The kitten bounced back well from the surgery and seemed to have a sweet spirit. Dr. Khuly had worked with blind cats before and knew this one could live a full life, since it had never seen and wouldn't know what it was missing out on. She couldn't find anyone to take this kitten and, out of desperation, called Gwen Cooper.
Gwen agreed to take a look at the kitten, but made no promises, since she already owned two cats. Upon seeing the kitten, Gwen was smitten and agreed to take him, thus changing her life forever. She named the tiny little kitten Homer after the Greek poet. I admire Gwen and her willingness to adopt a cat no one else wanted. Homer is a sweet, adventurous cat who loves everyone and sometimes frightens Gwen with his fearlessness.
HOMER'S ODYSSEY by Gwen Cooper is the story of Gwen's life with Homer and her other two cats. As an animal lover, I fell in love with Homer and his sweet, adventurous spirit. He amazed me with his ability to adapt and his love of life.
This book started out with a bang for me, but dragged a little bit by the end. I realize that it was important to know about Gwen's life in order to understand some of what was going on in the life of her cats, but I felt like the end of the book focused on Gwen and her relationship too much. Without Homer, her life wasn't all that different from anyone else's, so the end of the book didn't pull me in the way the beginning did. I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to animal lovers.
on October 21, 2009
Some books about animals warm your heart. Others touch your soul. Homer's Odyssey, subtitled A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat falls into the second category. This moving, inspirational and often funny story about a blind cat with a huge spirit and an endless capacity for love, joy and a determination to persevere no matter what the obstacles is a wonderful celebration of the bond between a cat and his human and the transformational power of loving an animal.
Homer's story begins when the stray kitten is brought to Miami veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly (who wrote the foreword to the book), host of the popular veterinary blog Dolittler, at only three weeks of age. Homer loses both eyes to a severe eye infection, and while nobody would have faulted Dr. Khuly for euthanizing this kitten, she saw something in him that made her determined to save him. When Gwen gets a call from Dr. Khuly asking whether she would come take a look at this kitten, the last thing the author wants is another cat. She already has two, and she's worried about crossing the line into crazy cat lady territory by adopting another one. But she agrees to take a look - and falls in love.
Homer, the blind kitten who doesn't know he's blind, has a giant heart and an indomitable spirit. He quickly adapts to new situations and environments, and turns into a feline daredevil who scales tall bookcases in a single bound and catches flies by jumping five feet into the air. Eventually, Gwen and the three cats move from Miami to New York City (and the story of their move is an adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat with worry and concern for this family of four). Adjusting to city living in a cold climate takes some time, but once again, Homer's adaptable spirit triumphs. He even survives being trapped with his two feline companion for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center.
But it wasn't Homer's physical feats and his ability to adapt to physical limitations that ultimately transformed the author's life. Homer's unending capacity for love and joy, no matter what life's challenges may be, were a daily inspiration for Gwen, and ultimately taught her the most important lesson of all: Love isn't something you see with your eyes.
It's rare that a pet memoir is the kind of book you can't put down - but this one is. Thankfully, I knew at the outset that Home is alive and well, so unlike what happens with so many books in this genre, I didn't expect to cry while reading this book. Little did I know how the gut-wrenching account of the author's experience in the days following 9/11 would affect me. Gwen Cooper lived through every cat owners' nightmare - fearing for the safety and survival of her cats, and being unable to get to them for several days. The moving narrative and emotional impact of this chapter will leave few cat lovers unaffected.
Homer's Odyssey is a must-read, to quote from the book's cover, "for anybody who's ever fallen completely and hopelessly in love with a pet."
People who own cats (or are owned by them) know that cats have personalities. Homer, the cat in this book, has the biggest and most wonderful personality and his presence lights up this touching and beautifully written book.
Homer begins the story as a two-week old abandoned kitten with a severe eye infection. To save his life a vet removes his eyes and tries to find him a home. No one wants him until Gwen Cooper sees in this little guy his unsinkable, adventurous, and brave soul. Thus begins the love story between cat and young woman. Homer is there, right next to her through job loss, moving, relocating, a burglar in her apartment, 9/11 happening blocks from her home, and, finally, love and happiness with the man who becomes her husband at the end of the book.
Through it all Homer charms and fascinates everyone who meets or even hears about him. It seems to me that his blindness is such an essential part of his personality making him braver, smarter and more playful than other cats.
I was so enchanted by this book, I couldn't put it down and reading it I thought of the wonderful cats I have had and wished they all had been, as great as they were, as wonderful as Homer.
I can't recommend this book enough. The story is fantastic, written by a writer with a real gift for storytelling, and the cat is marvelous.
Hurray for Homer!
Even though I *love* animals, I normally avoid reading books about specific animals because I can't handle the inevitable "circle of life" chapter. I'm happy to report there isn't one in this book (not a spoiler- all the press about the author reveals this information).
A brief summary: Homer is a blind cat, adopted as a tiny baby by author Gwen Cooper. The two "grow up" together as Homer learns the ins-and-outs of survival without sight, and Ms. Cooper takes on the responsibility of a special needs pet while trying to figure out her own life as a young adult fresh out of college.
I have to admit, this book reads very much like a blog, each brief chapter like an entry about an event, experience, or character trait that Homer possesses. Each chapter contains a lesson that Homer "teaches" Cooper, which she applies to her day-to-day life. While most of the book is light reading, there is a riveting account of Cooper's 9/11 experience, which I found the most interesting part of the book.
The book does delve into autobiography a little *too* often and there are chapters when Homer's name is mentioned simply to make the story being told relevant to the book, but for the most part, it's a sweet tale about a blind cat and the woman who loves him so very much that she changes the course of her life to make sure that he's properly taken care of.
If the idea of altering your life for a beloved pet doesn't resonate with you, you probably won't enjoy this book. But if you are like me, and adore your pets, "Homer's Odyssey" is worth the read.
Sometimes it takes a tiny, fragile little kitten to remind us that life is a series of infinite possibilities, and that making the most of what we have is not just an often repeated cliche, but something to live by! This is a great inspirational story about the little engine that could and did!
The book is an easy read, you could finish the 280 or so pages in a single day, if not in a single session if you like. However, it may be more fun if you read the book over a period of a few days instead. Because once you finish it, you will want to have more of Homer's adventures waiting for you! That way, by extending the reading over a few days, you will have more Homer in your life :)
Homer and the other two cats (Vashti and Scarlett) are the stars of the show, but running parallel and obviously intertwined is the story of adulthood of the author, Gwen Cooper.
This is a highly recommended book!
on February 23, 2012
I haven't yet read the whole book yet, but i'm already in love with Homer. :) This is a great book for any passionate animal lover! :) I would deffinately reccomend it. When i'm finished reading, i have 3 other people who would like to barrow it from me when i'm finished reading!