“There are two ways humans have of not telling the truth. The first used to be hard for me to understand because it doesn’t come with any of the usual signs of not-truth-telling. Like the time Sarah called my white paws ‘socks.’ Look at your adorable little socks, she said. Socks are what humans wear on their feet to make them more like cats’ paws…
“Now I know that humans sometimes 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 a bit before you pounce.”
This is how “Love Saves the Day” by Gwen Cooper begins—with the words of Prudence, a tabby cat. You might at first think it’s just another of those cute and clever speaking-cat books, but it isn’t. It’s a deeply affecting story of a mother, a daughter, and a thoughtful cat.
When Sarah rescues Prudence, an abandoned kitten, Prudence ends up in a home filled with fun, routine, shared meals, and Sarah singing to her. But three years later, Prudence waits at the window as she always does for her Most Important Person to come home from work, but Sarah never arrives. Days later, Sarah’s daughter, Laura, who rarely visits, comes into the apartment, empties Prudence’s home of Sarah’s belongings, and carts all the boxes plus Prudence away to her own apartment.
Because Sarah had once said memories keep a person with you, Prudence spends most of her time in the room where all Sarah’s belongings are stored, keeping memories strong so Sarah will be able to find her again. In the meantime, Laura has struggled for years with the memory of a tragic event in her childhood, a tragedy that altered her perception of her mother and of how to run her own life, and now she avoids the room where her mother’s belongings are stored, thus also avoiding Prudence.
When the pivotal event is finally revealed, it gives the reader a clear understanding of Laura, and by then, you care so deeply about everyone in the story that you feel as if it’s your tragedy too.
Gwen Cooper pulls you inexorably into her novel with her ability to set a scene or describe a person (or cat) without endlessly descriptive paragraphs, instead always choosing the perfect details that bring the pages alive. And bless her heart, she gives us a happy ending.
So no, this is not a clever speaking-cat book. Instead, Prudence is the binding cord of truth and love who adds just the right amount of laughter and maybe a few tears to this compelling story.
[Gwen Cooper is also the author of the best-selling “Homer’s Odyssey” about a blind but determined kitten she rescued and that changed her own life. Highly recommended!]