By Vicki Myron & Brett Witter
This anthology is a follow-up to a book about Dewey Readmore Books, the cat that lived in the public library of Spencer, Iowa. “Dewey’s Nine Lives” tells nine stories from people who were touched and inspired by Dewey’s life, and shares anecdotes of our other four-legged friends: cats. The protagonists in these memories, as well as their human counterparts, have adventures and backgrounds across the entire spectrum of experience. Several of the beloved friends were rescued as kittens, whether they survived near-fatal puncture wounds or were lovingly resuscitated after almost drowning. Others cats came into the picture as gifts from significant others striving to fill the void of recent loss, and the new additions begrudgingly inspired the same love and devotion past pets had also received. One theme across the stories, though, is that all the human caretakers feel rescued by the cats that had somehow entered their lives, whether the cats survived for many more years than expected, or many less years than anticipated. These stories show that the bonds between humans and cats are complex, moving, and restorative.
“Dewey’s Nine Lives” is the result of interviews, correspondence, and memory-gathering by the effort of Vicki Myron, who then dictated the stories to Brett Witter. Myron served as the library director throughout Dewey’s years as the library cat in Spencer, and I don’t know how, but her role with the library shines through as clear as day in the writing. The stories are told in a way that seems teacher-ly, and I can imagine her reading these stories out loud to a group of children. Though it felt somewhat cheesy at times, it matches the heartwarming content of the stories. Myron revels in sharing the adventures (and misadventures) of the cats, and draws attention to the deep connections fostered when the humans rescue seemingly helpless kittens and the cats rescue their human friends.
Yes, there was quite a degree of corny story-telling in this book, but corniness and cheesiness seem to go hand-in-hand with heartwarming and endearing (particularly when it comes to stories about animals), and I can appreciate loving attention devoted to pets. However, despite all logical reasoning, I didn’t anticipate one of the major themes in the book. Spoiler alert: in each of the nine stories, the cat dies in the end. I may or may not have cried (a few times) while reading this book. This was a fun and entertaining book. Not necessarily required reading, but if you like animal stories, then it is certainly worth your time.