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After Cleo: Came Jonah by Helen Brown
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After Cleo: Came Jonah (original 2009; edition 2013)

by Helen Brown

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2281650,815 (3.96)25
Member:pinkozcat
Title:After Cleo: Came Jonah
Authors:Helen Brown
Info:Two Roads (2013), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Cats, Brown, non-fiction

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CLEO: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown (2009)

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Helen Brown took her animal loving son Sam to see a litter of kittens as he badly wanted one for his upcoming tenth birthday. The only kitten left is the runt, a tiny little scrap of black fur. Naming her Cleo it is arranged that the kitten would be dropped off to Sam in a few months time when she was old enough to leave her mother.

Sam’s love and total fascination in animals leads to a horrific accident. Shortly after his birthday while rushing an injured bird to a vet’s, he runs out in front of a car and is killed. The family is devastated – for Helen the grief is almost too much to bear. A few weeks later there is a knock on the door and Cleo is delivered. Helen insists that the kitten be taken away as she is no longer wanted but when Helen turns around and sees her younger son Rob smiling and cuddling Cleo she agrees to keep the kitten. Cleo is like a little whirlwind leaping from one moment of mischief to another, doing what comes naturally to kittens – ruling the roost. Yet in amongst the impishness, there is wisdom and compassion beyond human ken in this tiny furry companion. She knows when cuddles are needed, she knows when to distract from the depths of despair. After a while she not only heals their hearts, but allows them to move on with their lives. Rob is convinced Cleo tells him stuff in his dreams, that he will find friends and everything will be ok. It certainly appears that for the whole of her 24 years of life Cleo brings the right people into their lives at the right time. As a marriage ends, a career blossoms, love blossoms and illness strikes, Cleo is right there front, centre and in their face.

Helen Brown writes with a down-to-earth approach and never allows the story to get overemotional or melodramatic, even when tragic events occur. Helen’s story is about recovering after personal tragedy and the power of animals in that process; it is both heart-rending and very funny, sometimes on the same page. But it is honest and from her very soul. I recommend CLEO: HOW AN UPPITY CAT HELPED HEAL A FAMILY as it brings to the forefront the uncanny knowledge of our furry friends, the patience and restorative power of animal love. ( )
  sally906 | Apr 3, 2013 |
Before I begin, I will disclose to you that I read this book very light at night, while obsession over a house decision (its good! It really is!)

So, as a result, this review is based on my reading of when I was not completely 100 % (which isn't fair, I know, but I won't be re-reading this book, and I want to review every book I read)

Okay, so the actual review. I loved this book! The author manages to write a memoir that is held together by the cat, but not really about the cat (make sense?) Cleo arrives at a time when she is most needed, and manages to distract the authors son with her cute kitten antics, the author with her cute kitten cuddliness. She even manages to distract with her kittenish destruction of the house. As Cleo ages from kitten to adult, to senior cat, we get the story of the family from divorce, to true love and happiness.

This is a warm, happy, sad, lovely written story that any animal lover will enjoy.

Also, and observation. It seems there are non-cat people who love that special, individual cat. Then there are those that love all cats, all places. The story is about the first person. She didn't want a cat, but acquired one anyway. The cat managed to become a very loved part of the family. When the cat died, it wasn't a cat to be replaced, but a family member. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Apr 6, 2011 |
When Helen Brown's two young sons see the neighbor's litter of kittens for the first time, she's staunch about not bringing any of the new babies into her home. When she sees the tiny runt of the litter, she falls in love with the little kitten and agrees to welcome the little bundle into her home when the kittens are old enough to be weaned. But before the delivery date is due, a terrible accident befalls Helen's family and her older son is killed in a horrible traffic accident. The Brown's world is crushed, and no matter what they try, they can't seem to get over the loss of Sam. One day a neighbor pops over to deliver the new kitten. Of course Helen is mortified and thinks of as many excuses as she can to deny the new addition, but as soon as the cat snuggles into her chest, her heart begins to melt and Helen's prejudices are pushed aside. The cat, named Cleo, is instantly at home in the house and quickly wraps everyone around her little paw. Devious and playful, Cleo's antics give the family something to focus on besides their grief, and her cuddliness and winsome attitude soon make this house of confessed dog lovers prey to the whims of an unusual and special feline. As Cleo teaches Helen and her family about healing and redemption, they come to envelop the cat into all areas of their hearts. Through the years, Cleo becomes not only an ally to be counted on, but the center of healing for the broken and careworn family. At times hilariously funny and at others tearfully sad, the story of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family is not only a great story for animal lovers, but for anyone who is dealing with unexpected heartache and change.

There are tons of animal books out there right now, and for the most part, I stay away from them. If you know me personally, you'd think this is very strange indeed, because I'm a huge animal lover and have a houseful of pets of all varieties. I've had pets all my life, from chinchillas and turtles to ducks and snakes, and of course the run of the mill dogs and cats. So I would be the perfect person to enjoy these stories of extraordinary animals, right? Well, that's not exactly what happens. I get all invested in these stories and come to love the animals in the books and feel a deeper and stronger connection to the animals I live with... and then the subject of the animal book dies. And I cry something fierce and ugly, and I vow to never read another book like it again. I figure what I need is an animal book that doesn't over-sentimentalize this point of the book and that doesn't build me up to a point where I'm heart sore for days after turning the last page. I got all that and more in Cleo, and though there were some things that I didn't really like about the book, the one thing that I did like was the straightforward and no-nonsense coverage of some of the more touchy and sensitive parts of this unusual cat's life.

A few things struck me as odd. First of all, I thought there might be a little too much anthropomorphizing of Cleo than was strictly necessary, and while the description of some of the things she did sounded very human, I guess it was a little hard for me to believe that she was sort of like a human trapped in a cat's body. During the early sections, Helen goes to great pains to let the reader know that Cleo seemed to be a bundle of energy, and somehow interprets this as Cleo's way of giving the other human residents in the house something to focus on besides their grief. I can certainly understand that she would see it that way, but being the owner of kittens at many different times in my life, I have to say that this is not all that unique a trait. Kittens are normally very playful and at times destructive by nature. They are often more self-absorbed than Helen thinks her cat is, and I can't exactly say that Cleo's personality was all that different from a lot of cats I've had. Maybe this struck Helen because she'd never been a cat owner before, but after awhile, Cleo lost her sparkle for me because, although she was beautiful and lovable, I just didn't see that she was acting like a human as Helen did. As a matter of fact, the best things about cats to me is that they are so different from humans, so much more wild, playful and at times aloof. This turning Cleo into a human who seemed to be trapped in a cat's body was just a little weird for me.

Another thing that seemed strange was that Helen and her remaining son seemed to attribute all these mystical powers to the cat. Cleo invaded the boy's dreams and spoke to him of how she would being him peace and friendship, and at other times, Helen claims to have had powerful spiritual awakenings in relation to Cleo. This was just weird to me. I'm always open to new and challenging ideas, but this just didn't seem to fit. Perhaps Helen was searching so hard for something after her son died that she thinks she found it in a cat. Perhaps I'm wrong and all these things are true, but to believe that Cleo is adept at picking Helen's next suitor or that she can bring friends to the family who has lost so much seems to be stretching it a bit. I also didn't like that when Cleo comes to live with the family, the dog they've had for years is relegated to second fiddle and eventually given away to her mother. This is not the way a responsible pet owner behaves, and though she makes some convincing reasons why this has to happen, it really made me uncomfortable.

Where this book excels is in its revelation of how the presence of an animal can heal even the deepest wounds. Though I sort of disagree with all the magical properties that Helen imbues Cleo with, there's no doubt in my mind that a cat can not only be a wonderfully loyal and steadfast companion, but can also demonstrate and require the attention and love that may be missing in our lives. The healing power of a warm "fur child" on your lap is worth years of therapy to some, and science has proven that animals have restorative and healing powers beyond what we think is possible. They teach us to love unconditionally and to take things as they come. They teach us it's not so bad to have a few lazy days or to get excited by the little things, and I think this book shares that message in a clever and uplifting way. As I mentioned before, it's also not one of those "downer" animal books, and it manages to be very emotionally level when it comes to the more difficult parts of owning a pet.

As anyone who owns an animal knows, they can be your best friend and greatest ally, and though I enjoyed those parts of Cleo's story, I found that the book may have been a little too strange to fully relate to. The sections dealing with Helen's grief over losing her son were poignant and humbling, but it was really hard for me to believe that one cat saved a family from that kind of grief. I am not saying it's impossible, just that I think it may have taken a little bit more for me to get over something like that. I do think that those readers who like stories about precocious and adorable animals could possibly love this one, and it's a bonus for me to have found an animal book that doesn't leave me bleary eyed with tears. An interesting, if not totally believable tale. ( )
  zibilee | Feb 8, 2011 |
I saw this book at Borders and the cover caught my eye, so I wrote it down and requested that my library add it to their collection. The cover had the most exquisite little being just starting at me with captivating green eyes. Beside the pictured cat it read, "The next Marley & Me"- Good Housekeeping. I adored reading Marley & Me and, being that I currently have ten cats, I knew I had to read this book.

Cleo has become one of my new favorite reads. Helen's writing is hand-crafted to every word, meaning that she's very meticulous and high descriptive in her choice of words. Every sentence is very picturesque. I loved how she could describe a site or action. Her writing was rather inspiring, as was Cleo.

Reading Cleo often made me slow down and think of how our kitties (and for some reason I'm always drawn to Jasmine, our first cat) and how they did some of the same things. What it did point out is that she was not a "cat person," as she already did have a dog. Yet she found specialness in this cat. It was hard not to. The cat sure did mend her family in many ways. I sympathized with the process because our cats have done the same for us, particularly my Jasmine.

I felt like I went through all the ups and downs with them, and boy did they have many. This book leaves me a warm place in my heart, and that (along with the incredible writing), is why I feel it is well deserving of a five. I'm grateful that my library did in fact add the book after my suggestion. Any cat lover, animal lover, or person with a heart for other beings will love it and devour the book. ( )
  Poemyhero | Jan 13, 2011 |
Opening Sentence: “…’We’re not getting a kitten,’ I said, negotiating our stationwagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel.…”

Helen Brown took her animal loving son Sam to see a litter of kittens as he badly wanted one for his upcoming tenth birthday. The only kitten left is the runt, a tiny little scrap of black fur. Naming her Cleo it is arranged that the kitten would be dropped off to Sam in a few months time when she was old enough to leave her mother.

Sam’s love and total fascination in animals leads to a horrific accident. Shortly after his birthday while rushing an injured bird to a vet’s, he runs out in front of a car and is killed. The family is devastated – for Helen the grief is almost too much to bear. A few weeks later there is a knock on the door and Cleo is delivered. Helen insists that the kitten be taken away as she is no longer wanted but when Helen turns around and sees her younger son Rob smiling and cuddling Cleo she agrees to keep the kitten. Cleo is like a little whirlwind leaping from one moment of mischief to another, doing what comes naturally to kittens – ruling the roost. Yet in amongst the impishness, there is wisdom and compassion beyond human ken in this tiny furry companion. She knows when cuddles are needed, she knows when to distract from the depths of despair. After a while she not only heals their hearts, but allows them to move on with their lives. Rob is convinced Cleo tells him stuff in his dreams, that he will find friends and everything will be ok. It certainly appears that for the whole of her 24 years of life Cleo brings the right people into their lives at the right time. As a marriage ends, a career blossoms, love blossoms and illness strikes, Cleo is right there front, centre and in their face.

Helen Brown writes with a down-to-earth approach and never allows the story to get overemotional or melodramatic, even when tragic events occur. Helen’s story is about recovering after personal tragedy and the power of animals in that process; it is both heart-rending and very funny, sometimes on the same page. But it is honest and from her very soul. I recommend CLEO: HOW AN UPPITY CAT HELPED HEAL A FAMILY as it brings to the forefront the uncanny knowledge of our furry friends, the patience and restorative power of animal love. ( )
2 vote sally906 | Jan 6, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Brownprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peterzon-Kotte, SaskiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To those who say they aren't cat people but deep down know they are.
First words
A cat chooses it's owner, not the other way around.
'We're not getting a kitten,' I said, negotiating our stationwagon around a bend the shape of a pretzel. 'We're just going to look at them.'
Quotations
Mothers are the ultimate power junkies. When we lift a newborn human from our bodies we experience an adrenaline high far headier than anything Bill Gates or Pablo Picasso knows about. Multi-zillion-dollar businesses and the world's greatest art fade to trinkets alongside the miraculous creation of a human being. The reason so few women become great concert masters, politicians and inventors isn't so much because of prejudice (not that there's a shortage) or lack of opportunity (hardly a drought of that, either). Why would anyone bother writing a symphony when she can create a collection of cells that will one day ask to borrow her car?
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Book description
Helen Brown wasn't a cat person, but her nine-year-old son Sam was. So when Sam heard a woman telling his mum that her cat had just had kittens, he pleaded to go and see them. Helen's heart melted as Sam held one of the kittens in his hands, with a look of total adoration. In a trice the deal was done - the kitten would be delivered when she was big enough to leave her mother. A week later, Sam was dead. Not long after, a little black kitten was delivered to the grieving family. Totally traumatised by Sam's death, Helen had forgotten all about the new arrival. She was ready to send the kitten back, but Sam's younger brother wanted to keep her. There was no choice: Cleo had to stay. Kitten or not, there seemed no hope of becoming a normal family. But Cleo's zest for life slowly taught the traumatised family to laugh. She went on to become the uppity high priestess of Helen's household, vetoing her new men, terrifying visiting dogs and building a special bond with Rob, his sister Lydia, Helen - and later a baby daughter.
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In the tradition of Marley & Me, "Cleo" is the story of an impish black kitten who teaches a grieving family to love and laugh again after the tragic loss of a child. "'We're just going to look.' Helen Brown had no intention of adopting a pet when she brought her sons, Sam and Rob, to visit a friend's new kittens. But the runt of the litter was irresistible, with her overlarge ears and dainty chin. When Cleo was delivered weeks later, she had no way of knowing that her new family had just been hit by a tragedy. Helen was sure she couldn't keep her--until she saw something she thought had vanished from the earth forever: her son's smile. The reckless, rambunctious kitten stayed. Through happiness and heartbreak, changes and new beginnings, Cleo turned out to be the unlikely glue that affectionately held Helen's family together. Rich in wisdom, wit, heart, and healing, here is the story of a cat with an extraordinary gift for knowing just where she was needed most"--Cover, p. 4.… (more)

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