What a beautiful and heartwarming story set in the hot and dusty South African, Karoo desert town of Aberdeen. Michael Brown writes with the gentlest of tones and words. This does not mean that there are no deep issues, or that there are no confronting situations. The author treats each of these issues with such respect and love that we come to accept what has happened.
The story begins with a retired Nun visiting Michael, the narrator. She encourages him to visit a woman, Mariette, who is dying in the hospital. Michael is reluctant to go because he played bowls with her briefly, but hasn’t seen her for some time. The Nun assures Michael that this is more to do with him finding peace at Christmas and will give Mariette some enjoyment.
Michael visits Mariette, finding her cheerful, direct and stoic. He asks if she has any regrets about her life and she says yes, she had always wanted a cat. Because of moving around, and dogs owned by her husband, she never was able to have one. She knew that Michael was a great cat lover and had owned many cats in the past. She said that what would enlighten her and make time pass enjoyably would be if Michael could tell her some stories about his cats. Both of them believed that cats have extra senses, and could appear when most needed.
At first Michael was a bit reluctant to review the stories of the cats he had owned, as each one of them brought back a memory, a story, and a situation. Some were humorous, some amazing and some heart breaking.
In his darkest hour, Michael was riding his bike when a cat crossed his path causing him to swerve. Consequently he got a puncture in his tyre. He retired to a little cafe on the side of the road and there, unknowingly, met John Lennon, who was passing through and had some friendly words to share with him. That black cat had caused an unforgettable meeting to happen.
As each day is spent at the hospital, the developing relationship between the solitary author and the terminally ill patient gradually evolves. Through listening to Michael’s stories and reflecting on the way he and the cats have managed their lives, Mariette finds comfort
A favourite part was when he smuggled a kitten into her room and it was discovered by shocked nursing staff. Fortunately, they were persuaded to turn a blind eye with the kitten sleeping soundly cuddled up in Mariette’s bed. There is stillness; a sense of all is as it should be in this story. For cat lovers it is a must.