The Story of Fester Cat by Paul Magrs (Berkeley 2014) $16; 295 pp.
Fester the Cat wasn’t cut out for the life of a stray. Miss Bessy (who really was a boy-cat) made fun of Fester for wanting a better life, but Fester didn’t listen. The house he found — the warm house where two men lived — was welcoming, and there was food. Bessy said the men were gay and it wasn’t “’natural,’” but Fester didn’t care.
It took him awhile to move in, which was just as well. Paul and Jeremy seemed to be just getting used to one another, too. Paul worked at home and made sure that Fester had lots of places to sleep. Jeremy had a stressful job that he really wasn’t happy doing, so Fester made sure to “sing” to Jeremy quite often.
Life in the cottage was good — Fester had his own garden, and he saw his old street friends occasionally. He had all the food he could eat, sunny places to curl up, scratches on his chin’s “Special Spot” and, though he wasn’t altogether keen on it, Paul and Jeremy took Fester to the “hairdresser” now and then. Fester knew the “hairdresser” was really a veterinarian, and he tried not to be too ungrateful.
But months living on the streets are hard on a cat and Fester’s “hairdresser” discovered a problem with his thyroid. Medicine helped that, but there wasn’t much to be done about a small stroke he suffered. The stroke led to headaches and wobbly legs, and Fester was embarrassed that he couldn’t do steps any more.
Paul and Jeremy were very nice about it, but they had their own issues to fix.
Heaven knows, I tried so hard to like this book. I truly did. Instead, what I really wanted to do with The Story of Fester Cat was to throw it in a litter box and send it somewhere far, far away.
Yes, I do have to admit, I was charmed by about three sentences in this cat-“written” story (obviously penned by human Paul Magrs). Unfortunately, those sentences were superseded by an insufferably cutesy tale that strained my adult sensibilities; repeated (and sometimes painfully detailed) mentions of doing “poo;” a colorfully-slangy description of a cat’s sexual organs; a whole chapter on intestinal worms; and the non-word “Ungow!” over and over — once, in a passage that reminded me distinctly of Ulysses. No, seriously.
I tried. And I think, minus the bodily functions, physical descriptions and worms, The Story of Fester Cat might’ve even been a good kid’s book. But for an adult — even for the most determined cat-lover – it’s far from purr-fect.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer