Monday, 6 April 2015

Guest Blog Post: The Cat's Maw by Brooke Burgess (Children's, 9 years +)

October 2014, BookBaby, 280 pages, Ebook,

Summary from Brooke's website
In the sleepy town of Appleton, a young loner follows a cat onto the road and is struck by a car. A leg is shattered, a summer is ruined, and the troubled life of Billy Brahm goes from bad…to cursed. When the mysterious cat appears at his bedside, Billy is haunted by strange and prophetic dreams — the creatures in them speak of Watchers, and Shadows, and the Enemy that Awakens. Does this impossible realm hold the key to healing the broken boy? Is the golden-eyed cat there to help him…or to make the nightmares come true? Too frightened to share the truth with his strict adoptive parents, Billy realizes that the only ones he can turn to are the local vet’s daughter, the town’s ‘crazy cat lady’…and the mystical tiger from his dreams.

Nayu's thoughts
This is a slightly unusual post in as far as there is no review. The book sounded a bit too scary for me at the moment - I confess to being terrified by the front cover - yet as a cat lover which spills over to enjoying cat storiesI thought you should all hear about it because I sense it's a great story. So Brooke kindly wrote a guest blog post, adapted from one written here. I hope you enjoy it and check it out! 

Find out more on GoodReads, check out the book trailer, and also the audiobook trailer.

Guest Blog Post from Brooke
This striking illustration is relevant to this post

I was born in Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia, Canada — Population 820.
Considering the geography of my childhood home, it is perhaps not so surprising that I grew up feeling lonely and distant. Removed. Like I wasn’t really a part of the world around me.
I longed for a friend. I kept asking my folks for a cat, and they eventually buckled – for my seventh birthday, I received a black and white kitten with golden eyes and a salmon-pink nose. He took to me instantly. Love at first meow.
My parents kept pushing me to name him, but whenever I asked what he wanted to be called, he’d just scamper off. Cats are coy like that. A few weeks later, my Dad pulled out a Canadian road atlas and told me to point to the first town that caught my eye. And that’s how we finally settled on a name: Kitchener. I’d call for him, and he’d come without too much argument – so I guess the name wasn’t that offensive, all things considered.

It was as close to friendship as I was likely to get. And it was more than enough. His presence snapped me out of my shell, and made me feel more connected to a living thing than I had felt before in my admittedly young life.

A week after school let out for the summer, I was playing across the road on a rope swing attached to the neighbor’s big elm tree. Kitchener would follow me sometimes, climbing up the trunk and perching above as I swung.  I’d lean back to scan the sky, comforted by the blurred canopy of branches, and the tiny black and white face nestled within.
I heard my mom yell that dinner was in 20 minutes. It was a Sunday, so that meant pizza night; homemade dough, tomato paste, cheap chunks of pepperoni, and cheddar cheese were manna from heaven for a seven year-old. I leapt off the dangling wooden plank and ran across the road.
I didn’t hear Kitchener yowl behind me. I didn’t hear the hooded jogger down the road shout an urgent warning. I didn’t hear the engine of the ‘68 Chevy growling down the highway. The only thing I heard was screaming. Mine.

Screaming through the pain, and blood, and terrifying confusion. Strobing in and out of consciousness, I remember my Dad suddenly appearing over me, pale and distraught, and tearing off his flannel overcoat. For some reason, he started beating my leg with it. He rolled me over, and almost fainted.  I’d find out later that my shoe and pant-leg were on fire; I had slid across the road so fast after the impact that they ignited.

The rest of the injury tale is for another day. Suffice to say, I was hospitalized, hammered and stitched, physio’ed, and sent home with a cast up to my hip. But I wasn’t that sad about it. Even with the permanent loss of 100% mobility – and the fact that we had just installed an above-ground swimming pool for the summer – I wasn’t sad because I had my cat to come home to.

Kitchener would be there for me no matter what, because that’s how best friends roll.

Except that he wasn’t. I’d call from my army cot in the living room, louder with each passing day. I asked my parents to look for him back in the garden and across the road. They’d just wring their hands and promise to try.

You see…I’d been in the Halifax Children’s Hospital for nearly a week, and what my parents had failed to tell me there was that Kitchener was dead.

They had found him on the side of the road one morning, on their way to the city. In the exact same spot where I was hit.  He was less than a year old. Almost 7 in human years. The same age as me. They buried him on the back acreage, near the edge of the vegetable garden. Beside the old colonial graveyard, where I used to lay on stone slabs from the 1700’s and see faces in the clouds.  Where Kitchener would stalk mice and bees, while making sure I didn’t get too lost in heavy, lonesome thoughts.
I was 7 years old when my cat died.  I’ve tasted Death since, but Kitchener was my first.  And when my young, broken self stared down at the tiny grave months later and the tears began to flow, I understood something…
It was like a contract had been fulfilled. 
A life for a life. A great love. A tragic loss. And, a profound lesson

And that’s a big reason why, more than thirty years later, I’m embarking on this journey – The Shadowland Saga, beginning with THE CAT’S MAW.

Because I believe that those we love are here to teach the most important lessons of our lives.

And it is our job to honour them.

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