16 November 2017

Review #681: The Astonishing Thing by Sandi Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

----Ernest Hemingway

Sandi Ward, an American author, has penned a heart warming debut contemporary fiction called The Astonishing Thing that is centered around a regular family of four and with one pet cat and a pet dog, and this pet cat narrates the story of this family from her perspective and how suddenly the marriage of the husband and wife shakes the ground of each one, including the cat itself, and how the cat makes an effort to repair this family. A truly enlightening and refreshing tale told from the point of view of a pet female cat whose emotions run deeper than the roots.


In her inventive, sometimes bittersweet, ultimately uplifting debut, Sandi Ward draws readers into one extraordinary cat's quest to make sense of her world, illuminating the limits and mysterious depths of love . . .
Pet owners know that a cat's loyalty is not easily earned. Boo, a resourceful young feline with a keen eye and inquiring mind, has nonetheless grown intensely devoted to her human companion, Carrie. Several days ago, Carrie--or Mother, as Boo calls her--suddenly went away, leaving her family, including Boo, in disarray. Carrie's husband, Tommy, is distant and distracted even as he does his best to care for Boo's human siblings, especially baby Finn.
Boo worries about who will fill her food dish, and provide a warm lap to nestle into. More pressing still, she's trying to uncover the complicated truth about why Carrie left. Though frequently mystified by human behavior, Boo is sure that Carrie once cared passionately for Tommy and adores her children, even the non-feline ones. But she also sees it may not be enough to make things right. Perhaps only a cat--a wise, observant, very determined cat--can do that . . .
Wonderfully tender and insightful, The Astonishing Thing explores the intricacies of marriage and family through an unforgettable perspective at the center of it all.

Boo is the female feline member of a family of four, with a mother, named Carrie, her man named, Tommy and Carrier's two children, who are brother and sister to Boo, also there's a "Not-a-cat" pet animal named Jasper, belonging to Boo's sister. Boo has a happy family and things run smoothly at her household, as he carefully observes and foretells the daily life of her four human family members. But one fine day, Boo's mother leaves the house all of a sudden with no information or anything and never comes back. And Carrie was the only one who loved Boo a lot and also cared for her. Now that she is gone, Boo once again observes the changing emotions in her fellow human family members, and how she tries hard to bring the mother back home or rather tries hard to figure out the reason why Carrie left the family.

The pet cat's observation of a failing marriage and mental illness of a human being is innocently yet vividly captured by the author. How cat who doesn't understand what is going on with the issues like divorce or depression has rightly depicted those troubles in a lighter or understandable manner that readers can easily hint on them. The best part of the book would be how this cat feels and perceives the emotions of her human counterparts so aptly, that even a human being fails to understand that. The cat's innocence and the light humor of her description of certain things and facts that are beyond her imagination or thought process often cracked me up and made me hug my own pet cat a li'l tighter.

The author's writing style is really beautiful and excellently laced with emotions that will touch the souls of the readers. The narrative is evocative and often hilarious, since a cat is narrating the story, in short, it is very, very refreshing to read about. The pacing is fast and smooth and there are quite a lot of intriguing factors that will keep the readers glued, since just like the cat, the readers too are anticipating impatiently about what is actually happening with the family and what is going to happen with this family. So the story will keep the clueless travelers engaged till the very last page, although some characters lacked concrete development and the end turned out to be bit cliched.

The characters lacked a bit of depth, even though told from the perspective of a cat, character development plays a key role in any novel, and without that, readers will fail to connect with them in an emotional or psychological level. The main character, Carrie is vaguely described like a painting, like whether she is suffering from depression or stress or whether she is mad at her husband or whether she is seeing someone else, everything is like a haze, hence Carrie is my least favorite character in the book, even though Carrie holds an important position in Boo's heart. Boo herself is a curious, observant and inquisitive cat and often helpful and thoughtful enough in her approaches, mostly she is painted as a mature cat. On the other hand, Tommy's portrayal is done with enough realism and the readers can relate with the stress, grief and pain this man is undergoing with due to his wife's absence from his life. The rest of the characters are also nicely etched out from reality and with honesty.

In a nutshell, this is an incredibly delightful, often funny and thoroughly captivating story told from the point-of-view of a female pet cat.

Verdict: An unusual yet a regular and compelling family drama dealing with mental illness and marital troubles told from a cat's voice.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Sandi Ward, herself for giving me an opportunity to read and review her book.

Author Info:
Sandi Ward is a native New Englander who now lives on the Jersey Shore with her husband, kids, dog and a big black cat named Winnie. She received her MA in Creative Writing from NYU, and is a copywriter at a medical advertising agency. Her debut novel, THE ASTONISHING THING, will be published October 31, 2017 by Kensington Books. She's currently working on her 2nd book for Kensington, SOMETHING WORTH SAVING.
Visit her here

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