- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Sarah’s music was my beautiful thing, and nobody was going to chase me away from it or try to take it from me. I couldn’t understand the words she was singing, but there were two words her song kept saying: Dear Prudence. She sang Dear Prudence right to me like it was my name. And it turns outPrudence was my name. I just didn’t know it yet. — Prudence, recalling her first meeting with her human roommate, Sarah
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When I came upon Gwen Cooper’s “Love Saves the Day” (Bantam Books, a Random House Imprint, 336 pages, $26.00) featuring Prudence, a brown tabby who finally has found the human she can love, I had a flash of recognition. Prudence, a discriminating, often cranky brown tabby reminded me of our shelter cat Greta, who adopted me and has been our constant companion for almost three years now. Cats have always been part of our lives and Greta, a green-eyed, brown tabby with white patches and feet, is the latest feline who keeps us grounded. (She’d like ME to be literally grounded, because if I’m gone for more than a few hours, Liz tells me how much she misses me!)
The title evokes the music scene of New York City’s Lower East Side — through an East Village vintage clothing shop named Love Saves the Day, featured in the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan”, where Madonna trades her pyramid jacket for a pair of rhinestone boots. It’s also code for the drug LSD and it was the original name of a 1970 music party by David Mancuso that created an important element of the disco, dance and music scene for the East Village and Lower East Side in the gritty 1970s and ’80s. (for more on Mancuso, born in 1944, click: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Mancuso).
Sarah, the single mother of Laura, is definitely part of that scene, one of a very few women DJs that the area’s club were willing to hire. Sarah and her best friend Anise are as unconventional and bohemian as Sarah’s corporate lawyer daughter Laura is conventional.
“Humans best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’s right in front of you is to back up before you pounce.”
So notes Prudence, who met and adopted Sarah when five-week-old Prudence, separated from her littermates, meets the woman she comes to know as Sarah in a construction site on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From the start, using feline wisdom that will forever be a mystery to humans, she knows she’s found the human she was meant to adopt. For three years their lives are filled with laughter, tuna, catnaps, music, and the unchanging routines Prudence craves. Then one day Sarah doesn’t come home. From Prudence’s perch on the windowsill she sees Laura, the daughter who hardly ever comes to visit Sarah, arrive with her new husband. They’re carrying boxes. Before they even get to the front door, Prudence realizes that her life has changed forever.
Suddenly Prudence finds herself living in a strange apartment with humans she barely knows. It could take years to train them in the feline courtesies and customs (for example, a cat should always be fed before the humans, and at the same exact time every day) that Sarah understood so well. Prudence clings to the hope that Sarah will come back for her while Laura, a rising young corporate attorney, tries to push away memories of her mother and the tumultuous childhood spent in her mother’s dusty downtown record store. Despite Laura’s efforts to repress them, secret joys, past hurts, and life-changing moments that make every mother-daughter relationship special will come to the surface. With Prudence’s help — and the unexpected understanding of Laura’s husband, Josh — Sarah’s daughter will learn that the past, like a mother’s love, never dies. She comes to recognize the meaning of William Faulkner’s famous saying (from “Requiem for a Nun”): “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
“Love Saves the Day” is a story of hope, healing, and how the love of an animal can make all of us better humans. There’s a wealth of scientific evidence that shows that cats and dogs and other pets make us better humans (and considering the sad state of humanity, that’s a good thing!). It’s the story of a mother and daughter divided by the turmoil of bohemian New York, and the opinionated, irrepressible feline who will become the bridge between them. It’s a novel for anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, wondered what their cat was really thinking, or fallen asleep with a purring feline nestled in their arms. Prudence, a cat like no other, is sure to steal your heart.
About the Author
Gwen Cooper is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir “Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat” and the novel “Diary of a South Beach Party Girl.” She is active with numerous animal welfare organizations and donates 10% of her royalties from “Homer’s Odyssey” to organizations that serve abused, abandoned, and disabled pets. “Love Saves the Day” is her third book. Gwen lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence. She also lives with her three perfect cats — Homer, Clayton, and Fanny — who aren’t impressed with any of it. Her website: www.gwencooper.com.