St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010, 2015. 171 pages, hardcover. $22.99.
Reviewed by Debra J. White
A sequel to the best seller, A Street Cat Named Bob (which I haven’t yet read), which is now becoming a film starring Luke Treadaway and Ruta Gedmintas, A Gift From Bob is about author James Bowen’s last days on the streets of London, England, scratching out a living for both himself and his constant companion Bob, a stray cat he befriended.
Bowen, a recovering drug addict, faced hard choices during the cold, bleak winter of 2010. Unemployed, he earned a meager income from selling copies of The Big Issue, a newspaper published by homeless people, or by playing music in public places, usually transit stations, hoping passers-by would leave money in appreciation of the performance.
A man with a cat perched on his shoulder is an unusual sight, so tourists often posed with Bowen and Bob. The pair developed a following among local residents too. If Bowen was not around for a few days, concerned neighbors asked about their whereabouts.
The Cat Who Came for Christmas
At Christmas, Bowen was both surprised and pleased to receive much needed gifts, mostly cash or gift cards stuffed into Christmas cards. Someone bought a Santa Claus outfit for Bob.
With his generous gifts, Bowen paid rent and especially utilities to avoid being in the cold, as had happened in the past.
As a gesture of appreciation for his followers, Bowen bought Christmas cards and handed them out to his favorites Big Issue customers.
On Christmas, he spent the day with his lady friend Belle, enjoying a delicious meal, watching videos and counting his blessings. Bob too feasts on home-cooked food.
At the end of the book, Bowen reflects on his life before Bob came along. He describes himself as a hopeless cause. That he is alive and fortunate to enjoy a Christmas like this is a blessing that “Bob bestowed upon me.”
He and Bob are indeed lucky to have found each other. A Gift from Bob is another reason to love cats and the healing power of animals. The book is easy reading, but the message is much deeper. A troubled man claws his way out of a hole with the help of an unwanted cat and emerges stronger, resilient, and on the road to a sustainable lasting recovery.
A Gift from Bob would make an excellent holiday gift as well as a good read.