Epic journey: Bestselling author to share life of love lost, found and shared
By Wes Wade (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There’s something profound in the bittersweet journey we come to know as life.
Gwen Cooper knows this well. Her engagement had just been called off and she was living with a friend and her two cats in Miami during the summer of 1997. That’s when Homer, the blind, 3-week-old jet black kitten entered her life.
Twelve years later, Homer would be the focus of Cooper’s New York Times bestselling memoir “Homer’s Odyssey.”
But the confessional would be every bit about Cooper’s odyssey as well, a new life experienced with the help of that special 4-pound feline companion, her two other cats and now, her husband. It’s a story Cooper will share with the public at Pellissippi State on Thursday, March 17.
“As far as a theme, my husband likes to say it’s a classic boy-and-dog story, even though I’m a girl and Homer’s a cat,” Cooper said. “In the terms of a ‘transformational’ and ‘coming-of-age,’ I was very young when I adopted (Homer), at a crossroads in my own life. A lot of what I learned with caring for Homer and having this relationship helped mold me into the adult I am today. In the end, a special needs pet is still a pet who’s still capable of loving you and living as capable a life as any other pet.”
When she received the call from her family veterinarian, Cooper was really one of Homer’s last hopes. After a couple had brought the stray in after finding him wandering the streets of Miami, it was discovered that Homer suffered from a severe infection. The only way of saving his life would be surgical removal of his eyes. Upon exhausting lists of possible homes for Homer, the vet gave Cooper a call.
“The vet had said since he was so young he wouldn’t know the difference,” Cooper said. “She said ‘Look, it’s not like the other cats are going to tell him he’s blind.’”
And although the then 24-year-old was very much trying to piece together her own life at that point, Cooper would later discover everything began to fall into place after bringing Homer home.
Looking back, it’s been an extraordinary relationship and an incredible learning exercise -- one that continues today.
“I think in a way there were so many predictions that Homer would be more timid and fearful than other cats, but I think the opposite is the case,” Cooper said. “He’s an explorer. He jumps off things he has no idea what he’s jumping off of. I think part of it is he can’t see what he’s jumping off ... sometimes you just have to take a blind leap into the unknown to get the things that you want in life.”
Cooper’s presentation will tie in thematically with subject matter explored by Eric Weiner in “The Geography of Bliss,” Pellissippi State’s 2010-11 Common Book.
“I’ll be reading from the book (“Homer’s Odyssey”), but also trying to tie it into larger themes of happiness as it pertains to human-animal relationships,” Cooper said.
Her next project, “Love Saves the Day,” is projected to hit bookshelves in the summer or fall of 2012. A novel partially narrated by a cat named Prudence, it’s not a stretch to see where Cooper found her inspiration.
“‘Homer’s Odyssey’ ended up bringing in so many readers it seemed to make sense,” Cooper said. “I just continue to write for them, for such an amazing audience. And I did have a story idea I fell in love with, which certainly helped make the decision easier.”
Wes Wade is the arts and entertainment columnist for Weekend. Contact him at (email@example.com)