Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: The Cat by Edeet Ravel

Stunning.....absolutely stunning story. I almost didn't read this after scanning the jacket blurb:
Single mother Elise is devoted to her son; he is her world. But that world is shattered in one terrifying moment when her son is killed in a car accident. Lost, angry, and desolate, Elise sees no point in going on, and longs to join her son. But despair is not an option; Elise must stay alive to take care of her son's beloved cat, Pursie.
Already this wasn't working for me.  I seem to have been inundated with dark, depressing books in this batch we've been reviewing for the Maine Readers Choice Awards for next year.  In fact, one of my fellow reviewers quipped that "Grim is the new funny."  I hope she didn't really mean it!

This one is elegant, lean writing at its best.  There isn't a wasted word.  While the reader can feel and understand the torture that Elise goes through, and can become immersed in the struggle, the detached dreamlike quality of the narration keeps it from becoming too maudlin, too ugly, or too unthinkable.  Having Elise herself narrate what it happening, and letting her memories surface to explain how and why she is grieving makes this a beautiful tale.

The cat is the excuse Elise uses to continue on, but the feline never becomes the real story.  Had that happened it would have been a travesty.  Instead, the good kitty stays in the background, available when needed, but never pushing into the limelight.  As Elise goes through the first few months of her self-imposed isolation, she deals with the memories of her own childhood, her feelings toward her mother, her son's father, her previous lover, and her only childhood friend.  Each of these characters is described with just enough detail to fit in, but never intrudes on the story which is essentially Elise's.

Although it's set in Canada, the setting could have been anywhere.  The time frame is a bit more important because the isolation and communications issues are very much influenced and framed by modern day media and communications devices.

In the end, Ravel manages to leave the reader with a sense of hope without closing the door on any possibilities.  I wish she had been able to expand the ending a bit more.  It seemed almost to say  "OK, now here's a way to solve this mess, I'll leave it right here."  Disappointing perhaps, but then again, this young woman is never going to have her life wrapped up with a pretty bow, so leaving the future open is quite realistic.

Right now, this one is very near (if not AT) the top of my list for 2013.  Go get a copy.

Title: The Cat
Author: Edeet Ravel
Publisher: Pintail (2013), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 240 pages
Genre: literary ficion
Subject: Dealing with grief
Setting: Northeastern Canada
Source: Courtesy copy from publisher
Why did I read this book now? It's being considered for the long-list of Maine Readers Choice Award for 2013 books.

1 comment:

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