Monday, January 19, 2009

Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

I am a librarian who likes cats, and I have a daughter in college in Iowa, so reading Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron seems natural for me. To make it even better, we bought the copy at Prairie Lights Book Store in Iowa City, who donated a portion of the sale to a local animal shelter. Laura and I gave the book to Bonnie for Christmas, and she then let us all read it. Our family encounter with the book makes a nice story.

Dewey itself is a good story, which is not to say that it is all sweet. It is a memoir from Iowa, which means there are going to be hard times recalled. The heartland of America seems to be a place with hard winters, poor farms, struggling communities, and dysfunctional but loving families, which we saw in Man Killed by Pheasant and in Little Heathens. Dewey is no exception.

Myron has really written two connecting stories, only one of which is billed on the title page. Most readers have heard about the cat's story, which draws them to the book. They may not expect Myron's memoir, which is what makes the book stand out from the many pet stories now on bookstores and libraries. In her forthright Midwestern way, Myron tells how she survived family tragedies, sexual discrimination (no college for the girls in the family), poor health, a bad marriage, and single motherhood. As in the other Iowa memoirs that I have read recently, the author admits to all the stupid things that she has done. While Dewey's story is entertaining, Myron's story is the more compelling part for me.

I don't have to tell anyone to buy this book, as many have already. Librarians might use it as a lure to other Midwestern memoirs, such as Population 485 by Michael Perry and The Summer of Ordinary Ways by Nicole Lea Helget.

Myron, Vicki. Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World. Grand Central Publishing, 2008. ISBN 9780446407410

1 comment:

Citizen Reader said...

I love the family story about this book! Thanks for sharing.

I too was particularly struck by Myron's story and her unbeatable will. As someone who has struggled with health problems nowhere nearly as severe as Myron's sounded, I must say I have a great appreciation for her and her story. And yes, I enjoyed the kitty angle too. Thanks for the thoughtful review of this book, and the shout-out to Michael Perry as well.