A cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards.
Should she help him?
After all, she’s just a cat.
Or is she?
It turns out that this particular cat is not used to thinking about anyone but herself. She was once a regular North American girl who only had to deal with normal middle-school problems — staying under the teachers’ radar, bullying her sister and the uncool kids at school, outsmarting her clueless parents.
But that was before she died and came back to life as a cat, in a place with a whole different set of rules for survival.
When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching.
Not my business, thinks the cat. And then she sees a photograph, and suddenly she understands what happened to the boy’s parents, and why they have not returned. And as the soldiers begin to panic, and disaster seems certain, she knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation.
But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do?
Deborah Ellis is the author of more than two dozen books, including The Breadwinner, which has been published in twenty-five languages. She has won the Governor General’s Award, the Middle East Book Award, the Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She has received the Ontario Library Association’s President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement, and she has been named to the Order of Canada. She has donated more than $1 million in royalties to organizations such as Women for Women in Afghanistan, UNICEF and Street Kids International.
The ultimate message that every one has a story and that everyone has a chance at redemption is a hopeful one . . . a useful fictional counterpart to Ellis’ nonfiction work.
There are no black and whites here, only ordinary people caught in the tangle of history, misunderstanding, and fear.
Ellis takes quiet characterizations and situations, using gently eloquent descriptions and dialogue to immerse the reader in the raw tension.
Ellis's premise is an unusual one, but with it she crafts a thought-provoking and sensitive story about the power of empathy and selflessness.
The characters’ complexities are slowly revealed, adding layers to the story. Readers are plunged into the narrative, in the same way Clare must face her new feline life.
Without editorializing, Ellis’s suspenseful and thought-provoking novel offers a touching, humane context for one of the world’s most intractable situations.
Quietly moving, full of surprises and, with Clare's colloquial and spirited voice, highly readable.