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Cleo #1

Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family

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"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 keep her--until she saw something she thought had vanished from the earth forever: her son's smile. The reckless, rambunctious kitten stayed.

Through happiness and heartbreak, changes and new beginnings, Cleo turned out to be the unlikely glue that affectionately held Helen's family together. Rich in wisdom, wit, heart, and healing, here is the story of a cat with an extraordinary gift for knowing just where she was needed most.

"A remarkable memoir. . .I realized that Helen Brown didn't break my heart at all--she opened it." --Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

"An absolute must." --Cat World

"The next Marley &Me. Even non cat-lovers will be moved." --Good Housekeeping

292 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Helen Brown

19 books169 followers
Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she became an award winning columnist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia, with husband Philip and their high maintenance cat, Jonah.

She loves writing about cats and the impact they have on people's lives. Her memoir CLEO (2009) became a New York Times bestseller, translated into more than 17 languages. A major movie is in development.

The sequel, AFTER CLEO CAME JONAH (2012) (otherwise known as JONAH or CATS AND DAUGHTERS), was published in many languages and embraced by readers and critics alike.

Other titles include TUMBLEDOWN MANOR (2014), BONO (2018) and the children's story CLEO AND ROB (2019).

Her next book, MICKEY, will be released in North America and Australasia in February 2022.

When she isn’t writing, Helen enjoys knitting badly, laughing with grandchildren and swimming near the family beach shack on Phillip Island.

Find Helen on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Helen.Brown....

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5 stars
1,811 (38%)
4 stars
1,719 (36%)
3 stars
932 (19%)
2 stars
225 (4%)
1 star
70 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 617 reviews
Profile Image for Cindy.
7 reviews4 followers
April 29, 2012
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 way a booklover can. Cleo rekindled my passion for reading again.
Helen's own loss and the brave ability to share her pain helped me find the healing light in the darkness of my own grief. Reading Cleo comforted my sould, yes, I cried, but I also laughed and once again focused on the beauty of Life. Although emotionally exhausted after reading Cleo, I was also elated.
Cleo sits on the top of my bookself with my most treasured volumes. Her green eyes welcome all who come into my home, naturally finding a place in the hearts of anyone who gazes back into them.
Profile Image for Sally906.
1,364 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2011
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 a car and is killed. The family is devastated – for Helen the grief is almost too much to bear. A few weeks later there is a knock on the door and Cleo is delivered. Helen insists that the kitten be taken away as she is no longer wanted but when Helen turns around and sees her younger son Rob smiling and cuddling Cleo she agrees to keep the kitten. Cleo is like a little whirlwind leaping from one moment of mischief to another, doing what comes naturally to kittens – ruling the roost. Yet in amongst the impishness, there is wisdom and compassion beyond human ken in this tiny furry companion. She knows when cuddles are needed, she knows when to distract from the depths of despair. After a while she not only heals their hearts, but allows them to move on with their lives. Rob is convinced Cleo tells him stuff in his dreams, that he will find friends and everything will be ok. It certainly appears that for the whole of her 24 years of life Cleo brings the right people into their lives at the right time. As a marriage ends, a career blossoms, love blossoms and illness strikes, Cleo is right there front, centre and in their face.

Helen Brown writes with a down-to-earth approach and never allows the story to get overemotional or melodramatic, even when tragic events occur. Helen’s story is about recovering after personal tragedy and the power of animals in that process; it is both heart-rending and very funny, sometimes on the same page. But it is honest and from her very soul. I recommend CLEO: HOW AN UPPITY CAT HELPED HEAL A FAMILY as it brings to the forefront the uncanny knowledge of our furry friends, the patience and restorative power of animal love.
Profile Image for Janet.
196 reviews
October 18, 2015
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 and I'm not a cat person (dogs rule!), but I sure was sad I never had a chance to meet Cleo.

I considered reading this with my kindergartner, but the quick reality check on just how fleeting life can be stopped me, especially since I didn't know how it would play out. I think most of it is child appropriate, though, so we could always keep that part succinct and delve in once Cleo enters the picture permanently.

I have to say the letter from the "Superman Hero" made me sniffle and the way the grief over Sam is detailed leaves you raw and aching inside. So many books like this gloss over the sadness as time marches on, but throughout the book I felt connected to Sam.

If you need an enjoyable (albeit tragic at times) book to make your life better, I highly recommend "Cleo." I greatly appreciated Helen Brown's writing style. It was steeped in authenticity and was able to blend tragedy and humor seamlessly.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,862 reviews1,897 followers
October 28, 2011
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 the pain of loss renews its hold on the current family configuration...gently, clawlessly, and with a sense of the rightness of life even in the absence of our dearly, dearly beloved.

My Review: I know that the publisher feels this is superlative writing. It's plenty good enough to tell the author's story. It's not lighting up the literary firmament. But the story is the star here. It's touching and it's heartfelt; it's amazing how honest one can feel the author being; and it's quite endearing how exasperated this woman spends her life being with her lot in life.

Reading about loss is always problematic for those who have suffered it...I lost my own son at an early age...but let me tell you now that grief and grieving end up being the constants of life so it's a damn good idea to get the coping techniques of others into your head and stat. You could do a lot worse than start here.

There is a moment near the end of the book, one which for obvious reasons I won't go into in a review, but that moment, that single page and a half, would make this book worth the US$16 it costs. Peace descends on us in the oddest ways, at the strangest times, and there is absolutely no earthly connection between the ease and the suffering it replaces. Unearthly connections, well, those I am not qualified to analyze.

So then, I hear you thinking, why'd you give the book a mingy three stars? It's about a cat. That's unforgivable.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,456 reviews82 followers
October 20, 2012
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 her family. I don't want to go into why Cleo was so special, and why the family needed healing, because I want readers to find out for themselves, the way I did. I marked this book as to-read without really knowing where I would find a copy, until my library stocked both this and the next book about Jonah. I hope if you've got this hanging around your bookshelves, or half hidden under your bed (or where ever you keep your books, if you're like me that can be any room of the house) that you will pick it and up and read it. There is a real story here, and I loved the descriptive, quirky writing style. The honesty in describing characters, even Helen's mum, was beyond charming.

So give this a go, will you? I don't believe you will regret it if you love cats and animal true stories, as I do. You will see the same love Cleo gave shining from the face of your animals, if only you look.
Profile Image for Rebecca Huston.
1,061 reviews152 followers
February 3, 2013
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 me -- as much as I liked Cleo the cat, there just wasn't enough to carry the book. Only somewhat recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Profile Image for Leah K.
661 reviews2 followers
November 29, 2013
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 therapist. I have two things in common with this woman – I lost my son (given, in a very different matter but the loss of a child is…the loss of a child) and have my cat who has been a great relief to me through this year (I actually have two cats but only one likes to acknowledge my existence without the assistance of food being involved). The day I went into labor, it as was if my cat knew something was wrong before I did. He laid his paw gently on stomach and wouldn’t leave my side but would never lay on me as I was in terrible pain. After coming home from the hospital, he stuck by my side and 10 months later continues to be a great source of comfort.

I really enjoyed and appreciated this book so much. What this woman writes was soothing to me because it was nice to know someone felt the anger and the sadness I felt. She writes wonderfully. She is descriptive and honest from beginning to end. I have read complaints from people who felt the cat, Cleo, wasn’t as much as a focus as they had wanted and I can see that. But for me, it was about so much more. It’s about finding the beauty and joy in the little things. It’s about resilience and courage to move on with life. It’s about showing emotions and having hope. It’s about a cat and her love for her family. People are regularly telling me I should stay away from these books – that I should read happy, upbeat stories. But it is these books that help me the most because for those 300 pages I’m with someone who understands and isn’t that what anyone wants? To be understood? If you’re a cat lover, I think you will enjoy this book but be prepared that it’s more than just a story about a cat. And you might want a tissue or two while you’re at it.
Profile Image for Kate.
608 reviews24 followers
October 16, 2012
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's life like all of ours has had its ups and downs. How we deal with them is our own unique stamp and the learning acquired through adversary also very personal. In this book she has given me a snippet of hers and in doing so allowed me to shuffle things in mine. That she could be so brave to put herself out there offering hope to others yet inevitably be open criticism that surly would have come her way impresses me. For this I am grateful and quietly inspired.

I particularly enjoyed the way she incorporates her environment with day to day coping both in the positive and negative aspects. The power of animals to provide a safe haven must never be underestimated. Mine reward me with much pleasure and I felt the use of Cleo to unfold a memoir rather charming. Thank you Helen.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
146 reviews
September 23, 2011
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, random appearances ruined it for me. I think it could have been a great memoir if Brown hadn't billed it as a cat book. It gave the wrong impression.
Profile Image for maddi rose.
93 reviews17 followers
October 14, 2017
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!!
Profile Image for Jo Chambers.
122 reviews11 followers
November 9, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Kris Sellgren.
1,054 reviews21 followers
May 15, 2013
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.
Profile Image for J. Else.
Author 7 books88 followers
January 15, 2011
"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 of Cleo in their home helps to balance these difficulties in Brown's life. This is one of those books that takes you on a journey. You may not be able to relate to the tragedy that befalls Brown's family, but you can connect with Cleo and her attitude towards life. She is the tie that binds the reader to this story. Not a cat person? You will be after this journey! I loved the descriptions of Cleo's attitude, manner, and outlook on her "slaves." The chapter "Letting Go" was especially beautiful, and it reminded me of a beloved cat that colored my life when I was going through difficult/emotional/awkward teenage years. After finishing this book, I felt grateful for also having a cat so wonderful and giving in love in my life. I could connect and share in so many of the cat moments of the book. It reminds the reader of how brilliant cats live and how their presence lives in our hearts forever.

If I had one complaint about the book, it was that of the final moment of Cleo. I felt that moment at the vet's office went by too quickly after so much buildup. Maybe the author skipped over some of this because the emotions are too fresh, but I wanted more in those seconds before she closed her eyes for the last time. I remember how difficult it was to say goodbye before our cat left for the vet's.
Profile Image for Megres..
224 reviews49 followers
February 15, 2012
Non ci sono cambiamenti nella vita di un gatto.
Solo avventure.

Ho deciso che non leggerò più libri sugli animali, o almeno ci proverò. Io e Marley me lo aveva fatto capire, ma io sono un tipo da gatti, quindi questo libro mi ha tentata troppo. Non avrei dovuto leggerlo. Prima cosa, la storia del gatto è un sottofondo. A me non interessa niente sapere qualcosa dell'egoista protagonista, che se ne infischia di tutti e, dopo la perdita del figlio, dice al marito di smettere di piangere l'unica volta che si lascia andare ai sentimenti. Non me ne importa niente del suo nuovo toy-boy Philip o dei 160 figli che ha, che vorrebbe avere, che muoiono etc. a me interessa sapere qualcosa sul gatto! Ho letto il libro solo per lei!
Sapevo che sarebbe morta alla fine, ma ho sperato che il libro finisse prima di allora, purtroppo mi sono sbagliata.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Perly Inez.
146 reviews
April 3, 2018
''Great joy doesn't obliterate grief. Both can be encompassed at the same time.''

Trodde dette skulle være en koselig feel-good bok, men den gikk rett på sak og var ganske så trist.
Profile Image for Shonna Froebel.
3,687 reviews60 followers
November 20, 2012
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 the family was hit by sudden tragedy, the cat was forgotten until it appeared on their doorstep. Helen was again reluctant, until she saw the smile on her son's Rob's face, which hadn't been their since their loss, and she gave in.
As the family adjusted to the cat, and vice versa, the cat distracted them from their sadness and helped them to move on to a new way of living. Through its long life, Cleo again and again helped guide them, cheer them up and keep them positive.
Wonderfully written even through the heartbreak, this book illustrates the power of pets in our lives and how important they can be for such small creatures.
340 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2013
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
Profile Image for Deb.
205 reviews
December 18, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Joyce.
278 reviews
April 26, 2013
Wonderful book, beautifully written true story that will have you laughing and crying. Thanks to my friend Helen for loaning it to me.
Profile Image for Tita.
1,885 reviews179 followers
October 3, 2020
Já sabem que adoro livros de gatos, ainda para mais, histórias reais. Como não adorar?
Helen Brown é jornalista e conta-nos a história da sua família e da sua gata Cleo. Helen tinha dois filhos, Sam e Rob, mas Sam morre inesperadamente atropelado. E enquanto a família tenta recuperar, levam-lhe Cleo, a gatinha bebé que prometera a Sam.
A autora tem uma escrita bastante fluída e que nos consegue passar os seus sentimentos e a sua dor. E que expõe, de forma tão clara, a relação entre os animais e os seus donos. Como é que os animais conseguem perceber o que, nós humanos, estamos a precisar.
E depois, no início de cada capítulo, temos sempre uma frase sobre gatos. Frases que são deliciosas e que conseguimos identificar e fazer-nos sorrir. E ainda, vamos tendo algumas fotos da Cleo e da família.
Cleo foi, sem dúvida, uma gata incrível e que teve uma vida bastante longa!
Profile Image for Kiwiflora.
743 reviews28 followers
February 6, 2010
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 has inserted plenty of interesting facts and anecdotes about cats, from being worshipped by the Egyptians to their uncanny therapeutic ability to make us feel better and do such things as lower blood pressure simply by purring. But any cat lover will tell you how good having a cat with you makes you feel.

I was working in the same department in the bank that Helen's husband was working in when their daughter Katherine was born. There was quite a bit of talk at the time how Helen was some years older than Philip, how her family had suffered in the past, and also what a total energy force she was. I never met her, but having read Cleo I now know exactly what my work colleagues were talking about. She is definitely a cup half full person, although she has had plenty of cause over the years to be cup half empty!

The one criticism I had of the book was the complete lack of photos. I already knew what Philip looked like of course, so had small advantage. If you go to http://helenbrown.com.au/index.html, you will see lots of family photos with Cleo.

If you are having a bad day, start this book. You will soon see that your bad day is really not that bad at all, and by the time you finish this book, your bad day/week will have dissolved away.

Profile Image for Beth.
129 reviews1 follower
September 13, 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 home and on her way to becoming a part of the family. I enjoyed reading about Cleo's crazy cat antics. Cleo certainly made her presence known right from the start. Anyone who is owned by a cat knows how insane life can become with a small kitten running the show. You also know how loving a cat can be especially in our times of need. Cleo was no exception. It was as though she knew she had an important job to do and that was to help her family through a terribly trying time. I loved reading about Cleo's adventures with her family. The story is both touching and amusing. The book is not just about Cleo but about a family moving forward after a tragic time in their lives. By the end of the book I felt as though I knew Helen, Cleo and the whole family and had taken the journey along side them. I have always thought that animals possess a healing quality and Cleo has shown me that to be true. I loved this book and highly recommend it, even if you are not a cat lover! Be sure to have Kleenex close by. This book will have you in tears at times, some happy tears, some sad tears and some from laughing so hard at Cleo's shenanigans. I enjoyed Helen's sense of humor. Pets and laughter can be the best medicine of all! This book will stay with me for a long time to come.
1 review
May 20, 2012
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 sense of humourism throughout it. The book was entertaining and amusing, I really didn't want to put it down. Though, in saying that.. I found that in certain parts of the story, it seemed to drag on a bit too much for my liking and there were a few sections where it lacked in action and detail.

This is a story of a young family and their journey through life with its highs, its lows, and its little things that we all seem to take for granted each day. The family looses a child, named Sam, when he was at only the young age of 9. One week before his tragic death, they had gone to see some newborn kittens one of which, Sam fell in love with. The kitten was to become his in Spring that year. After Sam's death, the kitten was due to be taken into the hands of the family. She was named Cleo, the name Sam had wanted, and was the life of the family. She helped to join the family back together and bought love and happiness into the family once again.

Overall I would rate this book a 9/10, I would love to read more books just like this one and it is quite unfortunate that 'Cleo' isn't part of a series of novels as I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time reading this one.
Profile Image for Chana.
1,578 reviews142 followers
August 27, 2017
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 she interprets as foreshadowing. That is what happens when your child dies, you go back and look for clues and turning points. As a reader I was hit unexpectedly and hard. I mourned Sam, I read this story and now it is part of my soul and my grief. I related to her reactions to the reactions of those around her, their sympathy and such.
So this is the home that is gifted with Cleo the kitten; grieving parents and younger son who witnessed the car accident that killed Sam. Cleo, what a pleasure she was to read about. I understood the cat therapy also. My cat was a large part of my grief healing as well.
I enjoyed the story and related closely. Helen has a lot happen in her life after the death of Sam. I think I stopped relating to the book as much when she and the family all go off places across the world leaving Cleo for a year! with someone who rents their house and cat sits. A year! Cleo was some magnificent cat to not run off or become very depressed. People need their cats, but the cats need their people too. Cleo sticks with them through everything. There was a very deep soul connection between Cleo the cat and her human family.
7 reviews
November 3, 2016
I really loved this book.

So why did I love this book so much? Because the author is honest and no one but herself throughout the entire book (the good and the bad and who among us is perfect, much less when we've suffered a great loss like the sudden death of her child, anyway?). I liked her frank and rather straightforward tone, which clearly come through this first person narrative.

I will say frankly, the title was somewhat misleading (one of the points other reviewers noted and I agree). Cleo the cat does and does not heal the family. Her presence doesn't heal the family in such a way so that all the members come together happily again. The healing that does happen is with the author. The loss of her son Sam shatters the original family that Cleo was supposed to join. The book is about how Brown deals with her gripping grief and herself as an individual. With Cleo, she rebuilds "her" family and herself, even though it doesn't include her husband in the end (unfortunately, he really isn't mentioned in detail all that much so their relationship from before her son's death is very vague).

This isn't some canonical piece of literature and it isn't meant to be. It probable (and I'm speculating here) that this book ended up being Brown's tool for dealing with grief and the discovery (or re-discovery?) of herself. Like other people who have dealt with death, the sudden death of Brown's son forced her to examine and change her outlook of HER life and the people in it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anya Nielsen.
Author 2 books1 follower
July 7, 2018
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 home, arrived at the most inopportune time. She was to be a pet for Sam but Sam was killed in an accident and the family were in deep grief when Cleo was delivered to them. Cleo could stay temporarily until other arrangements could be made. ‘A cat doesn’t go where its invited. It appears where it’s needed’. Cleo’s zest for life taught them to live again and even laugh.
The family experienced a deep bonding through a series of traumatic and life changing events as Cleo matured and grew. With her uppity personality, she vetoed new friends and kept a sense of order in the home. Some say cats are rooted to a place not to the owners. However, this is not a given and certainly Cleo proved her devotion to the family when they had to move interstate. She delivered peace and healing, always at the right time and in the right measure, ‘a touch of a paw can work better than aspirin’.
Keep the tissues handy and be prepared to laugh out loud. Light reading to lift your spirits. Recommended.
106 reviews
January 7, 2012
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 can come to live with the Brown family. In that time, Sam is tragicallly killed by a car as he is crossing a road. Several weeks later, in the midst of the family's grief, the family friend shows up at the door to deliver Sam's kitten. This is the last thing that Helen wanted, but Cleo is proof that animals know what we need better than we do. "Cleo" is the story of how this special cat helped a family through their grief and taught them that it is okay to live again. Helen Brown's tone is honest and conversational. The story also shows her transformation from a self-described "non-cat person" to Cleo's biggest champion. I liked how she weaves her observations about feline nature into Cleo's story. If you are a cat person, you'll definitely need a few tissues by the end.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,699 reviews20 followers
December 7, 2010
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 magazine as saying this book is "The next Marley & Me," I don't think it's quite on that level. Some aspects of the book are great, but sometimes the story gets a little lost in the family's personal life details. Overall, a good book if you are a cat person - especially since Cleo lives to be 23 years old!
Profile Image for Marina.
2,007 reviews310 followers
May 1, 2014
*Books 93 - 2014 *

saya akan berikan 3,8 dari 5 bintang untuk buku ini! kisah kucing yang bernama Cleo yang berusaha menyembuhkan luka hati dari seorang keluarga yg kehilangan anggota keluarganya, Sam!

kisah2 dan tingkah laku cleo yg sangat menggemaskan bikin saya penasaran.. sayangnya dia meninggal di usia 24 tahun.. itu kayak usia 110 tahunan lo di manusia..

ahh! jujur saya seorang pecinta kucing. dirumah ada 4 ekor kucing dewasa dan 5 ekor anak kucing! tiap ekor bisa saya timang2 atau ciumin satu2.. dan kucing adalah satu yg tidak terpisahkan dari keluarga saya.. mulai saya, adik, ibu, tante, sepupu, kakek dan ayah kakek saya sangat menyayangi kucing.. masih ingat di ingatan saya, ketika ayah kakek meninggal dunia kucing hitam yg sering disampingnya ikut menghilang dan ternyata pas ditemukan si kucing sudah mati diatas kuburan ayah kakek.. *air mata mrembes*
Profile Image for Gmr.
1,189 reviews
August 20, 2010
Where to begin! All the classic words of tender, heartwarming, heart breaking, and the like...so 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 up....it really is that wonderful. One quick word to the wise....it's an emotional roller coaster in there with highs AND lows, so be sure to have tissues close by. Recommended reading for cat lovers, but really animal lovers in general....I truly believe there is not a person out there that this book cannot resonate with. Happy reading!
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