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Book Discussion: A Street Cat Named Bob: How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets

    • carolineb
    • Carolineb December 19, 2013 9:20 PM

      Hi everyone,

      This month I have read a really (in my opinion) good book that was not what I was expecting, and I thought it was a good one to do for this month’s read – it’s “The Universe vs. Alex Woods” I will create an event for it after this. Now I’ll get into my Bob review!

      Bob has been quite an interesting read for me – I picked it because it’s not something that I would usually read and also because of its mass popularity! Every time I've started reading it somebody has either asked me about it, have read it themselves or want a discussion! I must admit that this may have impacted on my opinion of the book, and perhaps made me more cynical than I would have been.

      In this sense, my friend at work actually said she felt sorry for Bob, feeling like he was a prisoner in Bowen’s flat! She thinks Bob tried to escape those times when he “freaked”. I would definitely not go as far as that, but these cynical view points did make me think deeper into the story. I felt while I was reading it that Bowen was leaving quite a lot out, and that we were getting the Bob “light” version rather than the full truth. I think Bowen was a bit less selfless than made out as well. It is obvious that Bob brings him more money than he was making on his own, and I’d be lying if I didn’t think this impacted on Bowen’s decision to keep Bob – in fact I think it was one of the main incentives.

      Having said this, I enjoyed how “heartwarming” the stroy appeared – it is clear they had some kind of bond, and no matter how you look at it Bowen did help Bob when he was ill, and paid for him to get the snip too. He did do his share of giving so maybe I am just being harsh? What do you guys think?

      Like I've said before though, I couldn’t help but think I was only being told one version of event, and expected to swallow everything I was reading unquestionably. There were a few things that jarred with me, and these included:

      The fact that it was his decisions and stubbornness of being a teenager that put him in the situation he was in, in the first place!

      With this in mind I felt like there was a lot of fake modesty throughout the book – things like him stating how bad things were and then saying “I didn’t mind though..” you clearly did or you wouldn’t deem it important for the book!

      The drugs: I’m not sure everything was as he says – brilliant that he got off them but that incident with the airport was dodgy! How did traces of cocaine get in his bag??

      Perhaps I’m a big pessimist and I just should have enjoyed that Bowen got his act together with the help of a cat. And there were things I really did enjoy about it. I liked how I learned more about Big Issue Sellers – I found this bit really interesting and it has definitely created a new respect for the sellers and changed some preconceptions I had about them. I don’t think im the only one who has felt like they should start buying it! I know Rosy gave some money the other day – yay!

      Anyway, what did you guys think? Worthwhile read? Interesting? Is anyone a bit of a cynic like me? Hope you liked reading it guys! x

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      • Dianne
      • Dianne December 20, 2013 12:22 PM

        On the face of it this is a lovely heart-warming story but like Caroline I can't help but feel there is a lot he left out. I did enjoy it and I wouldn't normally have picked it up and it did remind me that I always used to buy the Big Issue but have stopped recently so must start again and remember that not everyone is so lucky in life.

        I think he did get attached to Bob and maybe Caroline's friend is a little too cynical but there were parts that didn't ring true and I felt it had definitely been made into a 'good story'. For instance why does no-one like him? It seems everyone is out to get him, but why? And why does he keep returning to areas he knows are illegal instead of going elsewhere? He could help himself a lot more I think. I did like that he was busking for his money rather than just begging like most of those in Manchester and its a shame he couldn't seem to do it peacefully. I agree too that the drugs incident was suspicious, although it really did seem that he was off drugs and that caring for Bob had given him some sense of responsibility. I did wonder too why he didn't stay in Australia where he had family who cared and the chance to make a fresh start. He could have taken Bob with him after a stretch of quarantine, many people do take their pets when they emigrate! He was almost too stubborn.



        All in all, although I didn't really like James much and don't think I would if I met him, it was an enjoyable quick read and will open many people's eyes to the plight of the homeless, many of them who are there through no fault of their own (unlike James perhaps?). I'll be interested to read Jane's review and whether she has any stories from her soup kitchen similar to this one.

        Edited at: 12:29:52 20/12/2013 by Dianne

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      • JaneDosanjh
      • JaneDosanjh December 21, 2013 1:05 AM

        I must admit I didn't feel like I was being mislead by this story as Caroline and Dianne did. I can see their point, but aren't all autobiographies edited to some point in order to show a certain image, either positive or negative? I did feel that I wished there was more on some parts, like the trip to Australia. We had pages and pages on Bob running away but hardly anything on Australia. Like Dianne I couldn't understand why he didn't stay in Australia. If he really wanted to get out of the situation he was in, why go back?

        I wrote my review straight after finishing the book (otherwise I forget what I want to say) so this is what I thought,

        This was a lovely little story, I like the idea of how a pet can change your life. I particularly liked the fact that Bob gave James a feeling of responsibility in his life and provided the reason for him to push forward with his recovery

        I suppose the pace of the book was reflective of real life but I couldn't help having the feeling that I was waiting for something to happen. There was some drama but sadly I I wasn't really engrossed.

        The portrayal of life as a recovering addict was gritty and I'm guessing very realistic. I welcomed this insight into a world that I hadn't ever truly considered. Of course I remember seeing the Big Issue vendors in the Uk when I lived there and I will have had a fleeting and sympathetic thought for how difficult life must be for them. However, reading this book made me understand so much more about the struggles homeless people and in particular recovering addicts have. For that reason I am glad I read this book.

        Sadly I don't have any particular insight from my experience working at the soup kitchen other than the fact that there are a lot of people out there who really need help. The soup kitchen provides one hot meal a day for anyone who is in desperate need, usually the homeless or people living below the poverty line (James would fit into this category) we feed around 400 people each day and this is in a small town (by UK standards) so I can only imagine how great the need is out there. One thing I do know is that often homeless people have been in some sort of trouble, maybe they were in prison, maybe they were drug addicts, either way they can't get through the barriers to leading a more stable life as James describes. There are also some who choose to live on the street, opting out of society completely.

        Im glad I read this book, it was another one I wouldn't have chosen myself but I learnt a lot, thanks book club!

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      • KristenJoy
      • KristenJoy December 21, 2013 8:12 PM

        I agree with all the points that have been made. I was grateful to learn of The Big Issue and what it represents. I also picked up a few new words to add to my vocabulary. I received definitions on busking and fort night from Lis which was great, since we don't really use those words in America.

        I really enjoyed reading about James' feelings for Bob. I believe pets are magical little creatures and deserve so much more than they often receive. They can change a persons life with their unconditional love and devotion. James, himself, I couldn't muster much sympathy for. He seems to have made his choices along the way, drugs, disconnecting from his family, etc. that led to his predicament. I am hopeful that he has made some new choices with himself and Bob and will lead a fuller life for them.

        Overall, I found the book a quick and easy read, with some big holes in his story, but a decent read overall.

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      • rosyroo
      • Rosyroo January 14, 2014 10:29 PM

        I'm so sorry that my review is so late! I read Bob ages ago but the bookclub site have stopped sending me emails and so, with Christmas etc, I completely forgot that I hadn't written it yet. Sorry and I hope it's better late than never....

        I really enjoyed reading all of your reviews, it's brilliant how the same book can create such different impressions on people and I love the bookclub for highlighting that fact. I also wouldn't ever have read this book if it wasn't for the bookclub and I'm grateful that I did because I felt like I learnt a lot from it. Like Aunty Jane said, it was great to get an insight into that kind of life and the road to recovery for drug addicts. The book had a very profound impact on me, in fact I can't remember any other book having such a big effect- I think it's because it was so true to life. Like Aunty Jane said, there was no dramatic climax, it was realistic and showed me a kind of life that I am (very luckily) completely unfamiliar with. As Caz mentioned, I have actually given money to some Big Issue sellers since, and some buskers. I've also taken more notice of them than I ever did before. I've noticed some begging and pleading with people for money and then others who ask you if you want to buy it and accept your answer regardless. It's made me think that the ones who seem so desperate may still be on drugs, as James mentioned that the first time he sold the big issue it was to fund his habit. In the cold and rainy December nights I really did sympathise with the big issue sellers and it really made me want to give them some money and really hope that their situation would improve soon.

        I wasn't cynical when reading the book as Caz and Mum were (and especially your friend Caz!), although I do feel like there were a few bits that were glossed over. He does say that in the cold winter months he naturally had to have some drugs to keep him warm at one point and it did make me think that we certainly were being told the "nice" version of the story that wasn't necessarily the full truth. However, looking at the story as a whole I thought it was quite inspiring. I disagree that Bob was there against his will as James was obviously was devoted to him, although I agree that Bob didn't need to go out selling with him everyday and that James knew he got more money from doing this and so seemed to be trying to justify himself saying that it was Bob's choice- hmmm. I agree that he should have stayed in Australia too- why wouldn't you?!

        Overall, I thought it was a very unique book. I find it very believable how a cat could help to save someone who was so fragile. Bob provides a distraction from the drugs, a focus, a responsibility and reason to come clean, but most of all some love and affection for James. A great story that I will never forget- thanks Caz!

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