When Maryanne's boyfriend Phillip finally moves out, she's left with her cat, Clement and her dog, Bob for company. Her animals quickly become much more than "pets", they are her constant companions, granting her love and loyalty when the rest of the world seems to turn their backs on her. After quitting her job to "find herself", Maryanne discovers a hidden talent, she can communicate with animals. She's soon working at a local shelter as a "dog-whisperer", helping the vet to identify complaints and ensure the wellness of the animals.
This book is many things all at once. It is a book about philosophy, based on the I Ching and subtly comparing the Eastern philosophy of the present being all that matters with the Western philosophy of cause and effect. (Interesting that the same publisher's released a novel about cause and effect earlier this year. A Year of Cats and Dogs makes a good companion piece to The History of Now.) This book is about releasing entropy and learning to live life with a passion.
This is a book about food. Recipes for the food Maryanne prepares are scattered throughout the book. They have names like "Quitting Your Job and Vowing to be Frugal Stew: Chicken Soup for the Sad" and, unlike so many similar books, they're well worth reading. Despite the heavy subject matter of the book, there's a humor that is particularly evident in the way the recipes have been written. Maryanne in fact is a bit reminiscent of Stephanie Plum in the way she reacts to the weirdness that surrounds her with acceptance and sarcasm.
But finally, this is a book about love. In particular about the love that can form between a human and their animal companions (Maryanne dislikes the word "pet".) Anyone who has had an animal in their life like Bob and Clement, will instantly understand the connection Maryanne has with them and their importance to her when her life starts to fall apart. Their are some extremely moving scenes showcasing the love the animals themselves feel, but to share them would spoil the book.
To read A Year of Cats and Dogs, is the matter of just a few hours, but it will leave you with days of ideas to contemplate. If you're an animal lover, a food lover, or a philosophy lover this book will be well worth your time.
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