Home with Henry: A Memoir
by Anne Kaier

PS Books, 2014. ISBN 978-0-990-47151-6.
Reviewed by Pat Bean
Posted on 04/29/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Animal Companions

There are evenings when you feel like sitting down with a meaty novel like Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth. And there are times when you're in the mood for something lighter, a well-written broth that clears the cobwebs from the mind. Anne Kaier's Home with Henry fits nicely into this latter category. It's the simple story of a 50-year-old career woman who buys a home and soon after brings an injured feral cat into it.

Written as diary entries over the period of a year, this small 108-page memoir has no intricate plot or complicated characters. It simply focuses on one woman's attempts to enrich her single life with a cat that mostly hides beneath a bed. Anyone who lives alone will understand what this fuss over an adopted pet is all about, but the book should also be meaningful to those who daily try to make their world a more joyful and comfortable place to live. And isn't that just about all of us?

Kaier begins her journal entries on a March evening. Driving home from work, she comes across a small orange cat lying in the middle of the road. Although she initially drives on by, her conscience demands that she go back and retrieve the injured animal before a less attentive driver flattens and kills it. And so she picks the cat up off the road, wraps him in a beach towel, takes him to the vet—and worries what all this will cost her.

The next morning, Kaier calls the vet to tell him that if Henry survives, she will take him home to live with her and Lucille, her long-time feline companion, who is coming to the end of her life. In making this decision, the author admits that her motive is as much about herself and her fear of being along in her new home as it is about the welfare of the injured cat.

As readers learn more about Henry over the year it takes him to warm up to the touch of a human, they will also learn more about the woman who adopted him. There is poetry in the story, not surprising since Kaier also writes poetry, and depth here, too, despite the book's simplicity. Reading this book warmed my soul. I think that's because it touches on the universal theme of hope.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Anne Kaier's essays and poetry have been published in The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, Referential, and Beauty is a Verb: An Anthology of Poetry, Poetics, and Disability that is on the American Library Association Notable Books list for 2012. She has a Ph.D. from Harvard University, lives in Philadelphia, teaches creative writing and literature at Arcadia University and Rosemont College, and serves on the Fulbright Creative Writing Student Screening Committee. Visit her website.

(See another review of this book, here)

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