Author: Sandi Ward
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication date: 31 October. 2018
Book length: 304 pages
In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat’s quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .
Pet owners know that a cat’s loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie—or Mother, as Boo calls her—suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie’s husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo’s human siblings, especially baby Finn.
Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she’s trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat—a wise, observant, very determined cat—can do that . . . Wonderfully tender and insightful, The Astonishing Thing explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.
I am thankful to the author, Sandi Ward for sending me the book, “The Astonishing Thing” in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.
The personification of cat has always been a highly interesting perspective of story telling in English literature. Such usage is prominent in the works of eminent writers such as T.S.Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Edgar Alan Poe, and even J.K. Rowling, Stephen King. While the ability of a cat to think on it’s own is often considered to be humane and thus the necessity of the term personification, it can simply to termed as a cat expressing itself in the language of the humans for the betterment of their understanding. The book “The Astonishing Thing” by Sandi Ward is a fresh, contemporary novel based on a cat’s interpretation of the lives of her human family. She has always been her human mother, Carrie’s favourite who calls her “Boo”. The cat really is not sure if it’s her name but doesn’t care much because she communicated well with her mother, they understand each other so well. Boo doesn’t like his human siblings much, mostly because she only sticks to her mother, mainly Jimmy, her human brother because he keeps on trouble their mother. Boo hates him for not understanding mom’s feelings even when mom’s sick in bed for days. Boo doesn’t really understand what has happened to her mother but soon realises that Carrie is pregnant. But a few months after the nee baby is born, Carrie packs her bags and leaves only for Boo to later realise the foreverness of the situation.
The story develops on the changes that the cat undergoes in order to find the reason why her mother had left so suddenly only to realise how much Boo has missed of the rest of the family due to her complete ignorance. She slowly learns to get familiar with her mother mate, Tommy, her human elder brother, Jimmy and sister, Mary. With time, Tommy, who had always disliked Boo, softens up to her and they start sharing the mutual bonding of feeling clueless and alone. The new born little boy, Finn, highly interested Boo, who first thought that little curled up bundle of life to be the reason of her mother’s disappearance. Slowly, Boo realises that nothing is how it had seemed to her before. Her desperate need to support Carrie at all situation and blame everyone else around, made her misread situations and rest of her family. She and her family must learn how to lice without Carrie. The children must learn the whole truth of the situation. But what is it? Was Carrie just being completely selfish or there is much more to the story?
What I loved absolutely about the book was the author’s way of dealing with the subject of bipolar disorder. The book descriptively highlights the effects of bipolarity both on the patient as also on the people involved in their lives. The originality of the plot and the insight of the characters involved is terrifyingly realistic and devastating. The high ups and heavy lows, the burden of extremity, the helplessness and fear, the uncontrollable actions and the pains they bring. The book also points out the complete blamelessness of the whole family. Both sides had their own shares of sufferings and everyone must learn to deal with it rather than continuing the blame game. Tommy made mistakes, terrible mistakes, but he was not sure what else to do. Carrie took a selfish decision, but that was for the best of both her and her family. Everyone made mistakes, but no one alone is to be blamed.
A book written beautifully and precisely on the complexities of maintaining a stable balance in a family and on the turmoils of every member of the family in their own ways, all through the eyes and senses of a fat, observant family cat. The particular usage of certain terms, specifically pointing out the differenced in perceptions of life and it’s objects between the humans and cat, is delicately and efficiently used. A reader can almost forget the spectator and narrator to be a cat but the book makes one snap back to the reality of the situation. Thus maintaining an entertaining fictional world between human thinking and cat’s expression, a cat who’s loyalty is hardly earned but once she starts loving a humans, she does everything in the power of her little four-legged feline body, to support them and express her love for them. Her caring, speculative narration of a troubled family to them learning how to rearrange their lives and her constant unspoken support is not a trivial cat’s observation but a cat’s conscious understanding of being supportive to a family she has always belonged to. To be able to pen down a debut novel of such beauty is surprisingly fascinating and heartwarming. Hoping to read more works of author Sandi Ward in future.
About the Author:
Sandi Ward writes books about love, family, forgiveness..and cats.
Sandi grew up in Manchester-by-the-sea, MA and now lives on the Jersey Shore with her family. She received her MA in Creative Writing at New York University, where she studied with E.L. Doctorow, and works as a copywriter at an ad agency. She has a rescue cat named Winnie, who approves of this message.
Her new novel, titled SOMETHING WORTH SAVING, is available now wherever books are sold. Her first novel for Kensington Books is titled The Astonishing Thing. A third novel, What Holds Us Together, will follow in 2019/2020.