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Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family

(Cleo #1)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  4,355 ratings  ·  567 reviews
"We're just going to look." Helen Brown had no intention of adopting a pet when she brought her sons, Sam and Rob, to visit a friend's new kittens. But the runt of the litter was irresistible, with her overlarge ears and dainty chin.

When Cleo was delivered weeks later, she had no way of knowing that her new family had just been hit by a tragedy. Helen was sure she couldn't
Paperback, 292 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Citadel Press (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was first captivated by the book Cleo when I unpacked it among the many others received that day at the bookstore. I couldn't help but be instantly charmed by those brilliant green eyes as I removed the packing paper, however, I wasn't ready to read the book. My mother had been extremely ill for months and really, I wasn't ready to read any book.
A week before my mother lost her battle with lung cancer, I bought Cleo and in the days that followed my mother's death, I sought solace in the only
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Helen Brown took her animal loving son Sam to see a litter of kittens as he badly wanted one for his upcoming tenth birthday. The only kitten left is the runt, a tiny little scrap of black fur. Naming her Cleo it is arranged that the kitten would be dropped off to Sam in a few months time when she was old enough to leave her mother.

Sam’s love and total fascination in animals leads to a horrific accident. Shortly after his birthday while rushing an injured bird to a vet’s, he runs out in front of
Richard Derus
The Book Report: A family devastated by loss takes in a little black mutt-kitten and learns, painfully and slowly and with much trouble, to live the lives they've been allowed to keep despite the life that was lost. Marriages begin and end, relationships resemble the ones they began as not at all, and through it all, for a remarkable twenty-four years, a proud black cat runs the entire world from a succession of Kiwi then Aussie kitchens, living rooms, and Asian-run delis. One day she dies, and ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janet by: Mom
I debated between four versus five stars. I went with the five for two reasons. 1) I was dreading getting to the end and not being able to read more. That's a solid "good reads" endorsement, I'd say. 2) The Ms. Brown's story truly made me stop and think about my life, what I consider important, how precious the gift of time is, etc. Plus, the book did make me laugh out loud a few times --that was when I wasn't snickering over the antics of Cleo the cat. Even more, I thoroughly enjoyed this book ...more
Rebecca Huston
Yet another book that I tried really hard to like. When the author is talking about Cleo, the book gets interesting, even if she does anthropormorphise her pet. Otherwise, there's plenty of self-pity, whining, and a backhanded slap to the good people of Christchurch, New Zealand. While I can understand the author is understandably grief-stricken and mourning at the loss of her eldest son, she also fails to see the agony the rest of her family is going through. This one just gets three stars from ...more
Leah K
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown
292 pages

★★★★★ + ♥

On January 21, 1983 a tragedy would occur to Helen Brown and her family – her 9 year old son would be killed when he was run over by a car. A couple weeks later Cleo, a rambunctious little kitten would enter their world and change it for the better. She would be there to comfort them through the death of Sam. She would also be there to witness divorces, more kids, marriage, and much more.

This book was suggested to me by my thera
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Such a lovely little read which turned out to be a lot more than the back cover suggests. Over the years I have read various columns penned by Helen Brown and enjoyed her frank and honest style.

The idea of a whimsical read about her cat seemed just the ticket uh wrong...Yes it is a memoir and yes it is woven around the long and eventful life of a captivating cat named Cleo. What this book really is, is the appropriate way for a master word smith to sort out and make sense of a huge loss. Helen'
I started off really liking this book, but about halfway through, the focus changed. It became less about how Cleo helped the family and more about Brown's divorce and second marriage. Cleo was thrown in the scene a few times, but it felt disjointed and forced. I was so disillusioned with it that I actually stopped reading about 75 pages from the end. After a few months I picked it up again and finished reading it. The ending was better than I expected but that middle part where Cleo made short, ...more
Jo Chambers
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
I love reading books about cats and enjoyed this one about the wonderful Cleo who helped a family from New Zealand to recover from the tragic death of their eldest son, and subequent difficult family times. Cleo was quite a character and I cried at the end of the book when she died at a stately old age. A recommended read for cat lovers.
Kris Sellgren
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cats, five_stars, reviewed
Like the best cat memoirs, this is much more than a story about a kitten. Helen Brown's writing ranges from heartwrenching to heartwarming, with huge doses of hilarious thrown in. Read this. ...more
J. Else
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Cleo's motto seemed to be: Life's tough and that's okay, because life is also fantastic. Love it, live it - but don't be fooled into thinking its not harsh sometimes." - Brown

Brown has a wonderful writing style. Her transitions in the book through time and emotions were brilliant. The pace of the book was just perfect to relay the situations and emotions the family was going through. I was especially inspired by Cleo's connection with Rob. Terrible things happen to this family, but the stories
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's always hard to review a book that has a profound impact on you, and I just know that this will never do justice to this book. I can hope that others will read this and pick up the book anyway, so I'll have a go, but my writing can never match Helen Brown's.

Picking out a kitten is a normal part of family life, especially a family with young kids. But Helen did not know the huge impact Cleo would have in their lives, showing up at entirely the wrong time, but also the right time to help heal
maddi rose
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So sad story, my grandma gifted me this book for my 8th birthday because she thought the kitten on the cover was cute! BUT she didn't read the description and THUS RUINED MY CHILDHOOD. I don't think 8 yr old maddi was prepared to experience secondhand the traumatic death of a son. So may this be a lesson folks!! always read the description of a novel or else you too may end up with deep seeded emotional issues!! ...more
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have 9 cats that have all come here for one reason or another. They are all part of my family. Each one is different & special in their own individual ways. They are what keeps me going everyday. My husband died last year & they all help me to get up everyday. The story about Cleo brought back so many memories. I truly loved this book. Thanks for writing it! My daughter bought this book for me:) I'm so glad she did & now she can read it too ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I literally couldn't put this one down-read it in one sitting. A must-read for anyone who loves cats, and, more importantly, for those who think they don't. ...more
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wonderful book, beautifully written true story that will have you laughing and crying. Thanks to my friend Helen for loaning it to me.
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
CLEO by Helen Brown

What a little piece of magic this book is. Have your hankie ready, Cleo and Helen would melt the hardest heart. For 24 years, this little black cat was the one constant in the lives of Helen and her family. From the most terrible tragedy that can strike a family, and the various ups and downs that occured in the years afterwards, Cleo kept them all looking forward and up. That is all the plot info that I am going to give because you need to read this for yourself!

However Helen
Jun 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, read-in-2010
This book is a wonderful, moving memoir about a cat who helps heal a family after a horrific tragedy strikes them. We get a glimpse into Helen's life after she loses her son, Sam. The family had arranged to adopt Cleo as a birthday present for Sam. When Cleo is delivered to the family, the last thing they were thinking about was giving a kitten a home. They were grieving after losing Sam. As soon as Helen's son, Rob holds Cleo, he smiles for the first time in a very long time. Cleo was indeed ho ...more
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Helen Brown's novel, Cleo. As soon as I began reading, it seemed to pull me right into the story and made me feel as if I was in the middle of the action. The author describes the characters and their feelings in great detail which can help the reader to relate and can help them to feel their pain, their happiness, their joy and their struggles.

Helen wrote in such a way that the story evoked feelings of sorrow, sympathy and saddness in the reader, yet still managed to maintain a
Usually when I read a non-fiction book that contains a child death I know this beforehand and can prepare myself. I didn't see anything about that when I picked up this book; I saw a cute black kitten and the quote, "The Next Marley and Me". So I didn't realize what this family's tragedy was when I started reading.
So I'm ticking along, loving the descriptions of Sam, even thinking that I was glad that his mother would not experience losing him! She looks at certain things in retrospect that sh
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anya Nielsen
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cleo - how an uppity cat helped to heal a family
by Helen Brown
Published in 2000 by Allen & Unwin Australia. ISBN 978 1 74175 907 5
The opening quote ‘To those who say they aren’t cat people but deep down know they are’.
Cleo, is a memoir and first published book by the author. It is a story about love, grief and the unlikely intrusion of a small kitten that led to family redemption. They called her Cleopatra, Cleo for short, after the Egyptian queen.
This little kitten, an orphan in need of a hom
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book because I am a sucker for cute kitten pictures, like the one on the cover. The story was also unbelievably heartwarming. The story starts when Helen Brown's son Sam, just before his ninth birthday, visits a friend whose cat has just recently given birth and picks out the smallest kitten of the litter. He names her Cleo, short for Cleopatra, as her mother has the regal air of an Egyptian queen. As the kittens are newborn, it will be several weeks before Cleo is weaned and ca ...more
Shonna Froebel
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Written by New Zealand journalist Helen Brown, this personal memoir talks about how Cleo the cat helped her and her children, particularly her son, adjust to tragedy and change. Helen and her family already had a dog and she wasn't interested in adding a cat to the household, but her oldest son Sam was intent on wanting the cat, and willing to give up birthday gifts in exchange. Helen agreed to adopt the cat as soon as it was ready to leave its mother and Sam picked a name for the kitten. When t ...more
Nov 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: animals
Cleo is the story of a New Zealand family who agrees to get a kitten for their older son's 9th birthday, but before they actually get the kitten the son is killed in a freak car accident. And when Cleo the kitten arrives a few months later the family decides to keep the kitten anyway - and it turns out to be the best decision they could have made. Cleo helps heal the terrible tragedy of Sam's death in different ways for each of the family members. Although the cover quotes Good Housekeeping maga ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Where to begin! All the classic words of tender, heartwarming, heart breaking, and the over used and yet so befitting this story. Cleo will work her way into your heart from the very start, lead you on a journey through the ups and downs that is life as conducted by her, and bring you back to earth heavy hearted but full of life and appreciation for the beauty that it holds. Even now as I type this brief review, I can't help but tear really is that wonderful. One quick word to ...more
4.5 stars

Cleo was a little black kitten, the runt of the litter, when Helen's two sons picked him out to bring him home. Helen and her husband, in fact, were more dog people, but they agreed to bring home Cleo when she was old enough and weaned from her mom. Just before Cleo came home, tragedy struck Helen's family, but they took in Cleo, anyway.

I really liked this, but given how much I love animals, especially cats, that wasn't a surprise. There was a good portion of this book that also focuse
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After a couple of false starts I got right into this book. From the first chapter through to the last I found myself totally immersed with this wonderful family. Cleo the cat shows us how to bridge gaps, love unconditionally, grow old gracefully and to not take life that seriously, despite the grief and sadness that is sometimes thrown at us. The intertwined story of the family and Cleo was superbly written. I at times felt like I was a part of the story, being able to relate to the different st ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I continue to put myself through something like reading this book, when I know how it is going to end. I cried through the first few chapters, and I cried through the last few chapters. Cleo is the story of a kitten who came into the lives of a family, after a terrible accident had occurred. A young boy was dead...Cleo taught the family how to laugh again, and how to heal. She lived with them for 24 years, protecting them and watching over them. She did a great job. ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is incredibly moving; very emotional, but ultimately uplifting and life-affirming. I think it's beautiful how something as small as a kitten can heal the broken hearts of a family affected by such a terrible tragedy. This book makes me want to step outside amongst nature and throw my hands up in the air, thanking God for life! ...more
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All About Animals: Cleo 3 10 Jan 16, 2016 07:48AM  

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Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter. Now living in Melbourne, Australia, with her family and their blog-obsessed cat Jonah, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand and Australian media. She’s been voted Columnist of the Year several times.

Helen's memoir CLEO rose to the top of the bestseller list in

Other books in the series

Cleo (2 books)
  • After Cleo

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“Guilt isn't in cat vocabulary. They never suffer remorse for eating too much, sleeping too long or hogging the warmest cushion in the house. They welcome every pleasurable moment as it unravels and savour it to the full until a butterfly or falling leaf diverts their attention. They don't waste energy counting the number of calories they've consumed or the hours they've frittered away sunbathing.

Cats don't beat themselves up about not working hard enough. They don't get up and go, they sit down and stay. For them, lethargy is an art form. From their vantage points on top of fences and window ledges, they see the treadmills of human obligations for what they are - a meaningless waste of nap time.”
“Great joy doesn't obliterate grief. Both can be encompassed at the same time.” 10 likes
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