Author: James Bowen

A touching tale of a busker, James Bowen, and the cat, Bob, that helped change/save said busker's life.  The book is written in a very honest, easy-to-read style.  It's a quick read, also.  I love cats--REALLY!  I can just sit for long periods of time just looking at my cat, Thor.  He's cool.  Anyway, that's where I'm coming from.

When I first started reading the book, I couldn't relate or completely empathize with Bowen's situation.  I mean, I've never been a smack addict or homeless.  However, as I kept reading, I began to get a glimpse at understanding how truly hard his life was at that time.  

Kicking the habit was not easy for Bowen, even though he was, in a manner of speaking, weaned off of heroin through a specialized, drug substitute program.  He writes:

    "Probably the most famous recreation of someone 'clucking' [quitting cold turkey] is in the film 'Trainspotting' in which Ewan McGregor's character, Renton, decides to rid himself of his heroin addiction.  He is locked in a room with a few days of food and drink and left to get on with it.  He goes through the most horrendous physical and mental experience you can imagine, getting the shakes, having hallucinations, being sick.  All that stuff.  Everyone remembers the bit where he imagines he is climbing inside a toilet bowl.
    What I went through over the next forty-eight hours felt ten times worse than that."

His cloudy thoughts and decisions are hard to understand and irritating at first.  Amazingly, the reader starts to learn as Bowen learns.  The more you read, the more you experience how his mind is clearing up.  And, there's no doubt that Bob is a big part of that.  Bowen and Bob bonded totally.  I'm not sure what the heck that means in scientific terms, but it's real.  I don't believe in ascribing humanity to pets--they're simply NOT human.  But there's a real connection, even if it can't be explained yet.  This book reveals that connection very clearly in the only way it can--indirectly--by observation.  It's kind of like science and dark matter/gravity.  Science can't see it, they don't know what it is, but they can observe its influence and effects.  This book shows that there is something (bonding?) there.  Bob is a pretty smart cat, that's for sure.  He rides Bowen's shoulders and definitely knows he can trust him.  After a few years in Bowen's flat, Bob teaches himself how to pee in the toilet!  No training involved!  There's a few times when Bob gets lost and you can really feel the panic Bowen is going though.  Well done.

There are some problems I have with the book.  Bowen shares tales of the dangers he's experienced while busking.  Several people hassle him and harass Bob.  But he goes out of his way to make sure that it was a group of very rowdy "black lads" hassled him at one point.  There was absolutely no need to identify them as black--other than as a cheap, visceral tool to exploit the fear of black men by white suburban yuppies--his main audience and no doubt the primary buyers of his book.  Like I said, there was no reason to do that--it was a cheap shot.  The only other person he identifies by race is a "Chinese" woman who says to him "angrily":

    "This not right, this not right.  This not normal for cat to be like this.  Him too quiet, you drug him.  You drug cat."

Hilarious “Engrish”, eh?  NOT!  Now, Bowen describes what I think are white people that give him far more grief than either the blacks or the Chinese woman did, and he never identifies them as white--EVER.  He DOES identify one nasty white person as fat--another easy target--and cheap shot.  Now, I'm not saying that Bowen or his editor/writer were rubbing their hands together in fiendish glee over striking a blow for white power.  They did it out of dumb blindness.  That's dumb with a capital D.  And I tire of that dumbness.  Badly done.

Most of the book isn't that stupid and annoying, luckily.  A particularly moving moment in the book is when a tube station ticket inspector, named Davika, gives Bob his very own laminated travel card with his picture on it.  She explains to Bowen that they all think of Bob as part of the family.  Bowen then writes:

    "It took a lot of willpower to stop myself from bursting into tears."

You'll have to read the book to totally get wonderfulness of that moment.