book review: A Year of Cats and Dogs


catsanddogsAuthor: Margaret Hawkins

Release date: October 2009

206 pp.

Publisher: The Permanent Press

The thing about living with animals is you’re never alone. When your partner your sweetie your main squeeze your baby your heart your one your only your love your life your husband your wife moves out you think you’ll go crazy or at least be lonely and you do and you are at first but then mostly you’re not. The animals close in around you, good company that keeps you busy and warm in bed, and they are never critical.

When I left my job five years ago, feeling like the walls were closing in on me, I immediately started taking classes toward a nursing degree. Basically I segued from one unhappy situation to a highly stressful situation and nearly had a mental breakdown. In A Year of Cats and Dogs, Maryanne leaves her rather dreary day job with every intention of living off her savings and doing “nothing” for a while. She’s 49-years-old and recently divorced, which has proved rather stressful of late, and she feels that she deserves this sort of break from reality and routine. She figures she’ll be happier on her own timeclock. Maryanne approaches her life in a very Zen way. Things are going to happen and she cannot change the outcome but she can make everything more bearable, more enjoyable, and more entertaining in some manner. She finds that animals can communicate with her through telepathy [she’s basically an “animal whisperer”]. This special talent leads to a job at the animal shelter and a romance with the veterinarian. Maryann also finds out that her father, who she cooks dinner for every week, has late-stage prostate cancer. Though she is surrounded by death, Maryann finds hopefulness in her own life. A Year of Cats and Dogs reads like a memoir instead of a novel as debut author Margaret Hawkins uses coin throws from the Chinese book of changes, I Ching, as headers for each chapter and intersperses comforting recipes throughout the book. A Year of Cats and Dogs is a quirky, engaging story about resilience, empathy and love.

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