Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

About the Author

Gwen Cooper is the author of the novel Diary of a South Beach Party Girl. A Miami native, she spent five years working in nonprofit administration, marketing, and fundraising. She coordinated volunteer activities on behalf of organizations such as Pet Rescue, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, the Miami Rescue Mission, and His House Children’s Home. In conjunction with Hands on Miami and Barnes & Noble, Gwen initiated Reading Pen Pals, an elementary school-based-literacy program in Miami’s Little Haiti. Gwen currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Laurence, and her three perfect cats—Scarlett, Vashti, and Homer, who aren’t impressed with any of it.

You can visit Gwen online at http://gwencooper.com/.

About the Book

Once in nine lives,
something extraordinary happens...

The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight.

Everyone warned that Homer would always be an “underachiever,” never as playful or independent as other cats. But the kitten nobody believed in quickly grew into a three-pound dynamo, a tiny daredevil with a giant heart who eagerly made friends with every human who crossed his path. Homer scaled seven-foot bookcases with ease and leapt five feet into the air to catch flies in mid-buzz. He survived being trapped alone for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center, and even saved Gwen’s life when he chased off an intruder who broke into their home in the middle of the night.

But it was Homer’s unswerving loyalty, his infinite capacity for love, and his joy in the face of all obstacles that inspired Gwen daily and transformed her life. And by the time she met the man she would marry, she realized Homer had taught her the most important lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.

Homer’s Odyssey is the once-in-a-lifetime story of an extraordinary cat and his human companion. It celebrates the refusal to accept limits—on love, ability, or hope against overwhelming odds. By turns jubilant and moving, it’s a memoir for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and helplessly in love with a pet.

I was lucky enough to get Gwen to agree to answer some questions. Here's what she had to say:

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

Homer’s Odyssey is a memoir about my blind cat, Homer, named for the blind Greek poet. It’s a look at the incredible things that Homer, despite his blindness—or maybe because of it—is able to do, and also at the ways his courage, loyalty, and love changed my life and the person I became.

Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?

In addition to all the incredible things Homer does every day (I always say that he has “superpowers”), he’s also chased off a burglar who broke into my apartment, he’s a 9/11 survivor, he helped me find the love of my life who I married just last year. It occurred to me one day that all the adventure, danger, romance, and general ups and downs of our life together would make for a great story. So I decided to sit down and write it.

What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?

Well, one of the main things—and this is in no way a spoiler!—is that this is the rare pet memoir with a happy ending. It ends with a wedding. Nobody dies in this book!

Also, most of the pet memoirs I’ve seen have focused on one pet. I have three cats—my other two are named Vashti and Scarlett—and so even though Homer is very much the “star” of the book, Vashti and Scarlett are there as crucial supporting characters.

What cause are you most passionate about and why?

In a very general sense I would say service to others, whether formally through volunteerism or less so by, say, offering to help a friend—even if it’s a casual acquaintance—who you know could use the assistance.

Not to get too political, but one of the most shocking things I always see during an election cycle are the people who are opposed to certain policies, even if those policies would benefit them, because the policies would also incidentally benefit some who they think are undeserving of being helped. So there are people willing to hurt themselves in order to avoid seeing others helped.

Even from the perspective of pure self-interest, I find that a short-sighted and destructive world view. In the entire history of history, no civilization has ever crumbled because its citizenry was too happy, too healthy, too secure, too well educated, and too well fed. When a large enough percentage of people are scared, sick, and hungry, that’s when we all need to worry.

In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?

I used to hate crossword puzzles intensely, and about a year ago I suddenly fell in love with them. I think that when you’re going through the general anxiety of writing a book, editing a book, and then waiting for it to be published, there’s something incredibly soothing in having small, discrete “problems” you can solve. I’m at the point where I can now get through a weekday New York Times crossword in about 15 minutes, although the Sunday one still takes me the better part of a day.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

Far and away my marriage. Up until a few years ago, my career was the driving force in my life—and I think that, when you’re young, that’s the way it almost has to be. You’re trying to build a certain kind of life for yourself, and you have to focus on what it’s going to take to make that happen. But eventually, career has to shift from being your life to being the thing that enables your life. I work hard and push myself so that my husband can go to sleep at night without worrying about our future. And he does the same for me!

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?

Getting published! It’s rough out there for writers right now. Arguably it’s always been tough for writers, but the last few years seem to have driven the barriers to publication even higher. I know—no matter what happens with this book—how fortunate I am simply to be in print, and I’m grateful for it every day.