I did my usual browse at Bookazine in the Avenue, looking for some book or other to jump off the shelves and into my hand. The biographies didn’t excite me, until a serious looking tabby cat caught my eye. Having watched the children’s DVD on Puss In Boots, I must have been mentally prepared for it.
A Street Cat Named Bob (ISBN 978-1-444-73711-0, Hodder & Stoughten, 2012) has a subtitle “How one man and his cat found hope on the streets” which was intriguing. I took the Bookazine’s cat home, just as the author James Bowen had done some time previously with his real life example.
Whilst the title would give the would be reader that it is a tale (tail?) about a cat, this is not strictly correct. The book by James Bowen is more about a recovering drug addict and how his experiences with a cat helped in his getting off the hard drugs.
Bowen freely admits in the book that he had reached skid row, there was no future and he was living rough in the streets of London, existing through petty theft to have enough money for the heroin, and anything left over for food.
Bowen describes how an addict becomes de-humanized as they sink into the drug sub-culture, calling the condition as being invisible. He was living in London amidst thousands of commuters, and yet nobody saw him. However, when he took the cat with him, when he was busking outside, people stopped and spoke to him about the cat. “In some ways it was giving me back my identity. I had become a non-person. I was becoming a person again.”
James Bowen shows what life was like in sheltered accommodation, going to the pharmacy every day for his dose of methadone, after the heroin. It was the cat, in his mind, that gave him back a raison d’etre, and the beginnings of accepting responsibilities both for himself and his furry friend.
As he becomes stronger, he re-unites with his mother and returns to society, and genuinely thanks his cat.
Having been fortunate to have owned a “human” cat in this life, I could understand just how there could be such a bond between James Bowen and the cat named Bob. There are others who have experienced just how a cat can communicate with its owner on a non-verbal plane. James Bowen wondered had he and Bob known each other in a previous life, or had he done something good to be rewarded by being given Bob in this life? This book does not go very deeply in that direction, being more of a treatise from a recovering drug addict with all the introspective thoughts that come from this.
With all that psychological infrastructure, A Street Cat Named Bob comes through as a feel-good book on human behavior and endeavor. James Bowen has done well, with his cat to get him headed in the right direction, and to keep him there.
The RRP is B. 435 and is a warming tale that can be understood by anyone with a “human” cat.