Scratch beneath the surface of any ‘normal-looking’ family set-up and you will quickly discover a façade that crumbles under scrutiny. So, in Barry Jackson’s novel, loosely based on his own personal, painful, experiences, the reader rides out the waves of parental neglect and abuse, verbal, psychological and emotional, which grind down the young boy Dean. A brief respite of staying with his grandmother for a couple of months during the summer and knowing, for the first time in his life, what it is like to be loved is short-lived as she suffers a stroke.

Later, living in his own apartment, successful in his field of employment, he meets Melissa who pours out her love on her feline companions, a scarred victim also, of dysfunctional parents.  Gradually, despite his aversion to cats, especially Melissa’s four cats, who all seem hell-bent on giving him the ‘middle claw’, they fall in love and move in together.

Dean finds it hard to accept life in his apartment with Melissa and her cats and initially tries to find ways that he might be able to get rid of them. Wanting her attention for himself he can’t accept that she loves him AND the cats. 

Over time they get married and have a son, who is eventually diagnosed with autism.  It is then that Dean realises just how much the cats mean to his son, Craig, as he opens up to them.  They protect him, and seem to understand that he needs them. Craig now is able to communicate with his own parents and the cats have been instrumental in his progress.

During the years other cats find their way into their home and hearts, after the loss of the original four, and Dean understands their personalities and characteristics are part of who they are and he realises just how much he actually loves and respects each feline character who have shared their lives so far.

There are parental losses too but throughout all the turbulence that each dysfunctional parent tries to rain down on them, they remain strong in their love for each other and their marriage.  This book proves that you can overcome a poor start in life, that you can find love and have a family and not repeat the behaviour of your parents.

Barry’s writing style is superb, with the most lyrical and beautiful poetic descriptions of life just after the war in America, and this sublime prose continues throughout the book. I didn’t want the book to end and I do hope that he writes more.   

This unputdownable read can be found in hardback at TurnthePagePublishing.com.   The ISBN number is: 9781938501104

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