Author Gwen Cooper Sees the World Through Her Cat's Eyes
Cats know our secrets. They watch us rush through our morning routines, celebrate our triumphs, and weather the ups and downs of our relationships. When our feline roommates perch on the windowsill or hunker down beneath the couch to observe our daily dramas, believes bestselling author Gwen Cooper, they understand more than we think they do.
"Cats are predators, so they, by design, are going to notice very small changes in posture, expression, body language, and even the way we smell," Cooper says. "I think on a really fundamental level, they do understand [our emotions], because they notice so many of the small details that we do not notice in each other."
As members of such an astute audience, cats could tell one heck of a tale. That's why Cooper's new novel, Love Saves the Day, has a feline narrator.
The fictional tale explores human relationships from the perspective of a precocious cat named Prudence, who lives with a woman named Sarah. When Sarah does not come home one day, Prudence moves in with Sarah's newly married daughter, Laura. As Laura and Prudence get to know each other, they "help each other with the healing process and rediscover the joy in their shared memories of this person who they both lost," Cooper says. With Prudence's help, Laura also finally has a chance to heal from her difficult relationship with her mother.
To master Prudence's voice, Cooper channeled her own cat, Scarlett, a classically aloof princess who loved Cooper and Cooper alone. Many of Cooper's fans will remember Scarlett from Homer's Odyssey, Cooper's coming-of-age memoir about her life with blind "wonder cat" Homer, who taught her to live and love fearlessly.
"Writing from a cat’s perspective, I didn’t want a feline narrator who was too kind of cloyingly in love with humans to be able to observe them without a certain kind of objectivity," Cooper says. "So I figured Scarlett was the perfect cat for that."
Through its third-party examination of the mother-daughter dynamic, Love Saves the Day reveals how our relationships with our pets can strengthen our relationships with people, a theme Cooper also explored in Homer's Odyssey. She believes that loving and caring for her cats has made her a better person by connecting her with the best parts of herself.
"Love is love, whether the love goes on two legs or four," Cooper says. "And love is never wasted. It’s not something you just throw out there and get nothing back in terms of your own growth. Just the experience of caring for someone and loving someone else is always going to be meaningful and enriching. I think that’s definitely true of our relationship with animals."
The human-animal bond is especially important when the going gets tough. Recently, Homer has been suffering from health problems; according to Facebook posts, for a while Cooper was not sure that Homer would live to see the new year. Considering all that Homer has overcome, that's quite a statement. He entered Cooper's life 16 years ago as a malnourished, unwanted kitten whose eyes had been surgically removed due to severe infection, and he grew into a sleek, confident daredevil who could catch a fly in midair. When he became ill and Cooper took him to the vet for blood work, she received some startling news.
"The phrase that the vet used was that his numbers were incompatible with life, which is a really harsh thing to hear," Cooper says. "It’s basically saying this cat should already be dead. But he’s really rallied in the last few weeks. He’s eating really well, and he plays and purrs. This is obviously a cat that has a remarkably strong constitution, but we’re just very grateful that he continues to do so well."
Love Saves the Day is scheduled to come out today. For her Love Saves the Day tour, rather than bookstores Cooper is partnering with Arm & Hammer Ultra-Last Cat Litter and visiting 15 no-kill animal shelters across the country. Each shelter will receive donations of Arm & Hammer litter and various other supplies. The tour is still in the early stages of planning, so watch Cooper's website, Twitter, and Facebook for further announcements and shelter selection criteria.
According to Cooper, private corporate financing for a national book tour -- especially a tour not held in bookstores -- is highly unorthodox. She is thrilled to have Arm & Hammer's support and "commitment to improving the lives of cats everywhere."
"I wanted to do a book tour of shelters instead of bookstores, because love does save the day for so many unwanted and abandoned animals through the work of shelters," Cooper adds. "What I’m hoping will happen is that, between Arm & Hammer and me, we can select shelters that are doing incredible things and let the communities know about the incredible volunteers they have right in their midst."