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Friday, April 24, 2009

One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox

Don’t start reading this one if you’re having a bad day. It’s not a merry little book.

I can’t say I’d send this to the DaVinci pile, but even though this book won a Newberry award, I consider it just OK.

Ned is the son of a minister. His mother is suffering a debilitating disease. His father is clearly a good man, a gentle soul, and he cares for his wife with great perseverance. The woman who helps out around their house (Ms. Scully) is a bit of a verbal bully. Ned also befriends an elderly neighbor who later has a stroke and dies. Ned is coping with a lot.

One day, his Uncle arrives and brings him a present: a gun. Ned’s father put it away in the attic until Ned’s older; he’s not a fan of guns. Ned sneaks the gun out that night and he shoots toward a shadow. He puts the gun back, but later, he discovers that a wild cat outside lost its eye, and he knows that he likely did it. He struggles mightily with guilt after this.

Now, in the end, the family finds a new job for Ms. Scully, the mother undergoes some treatment that seems to help her, although she isn’t cured. And Ned has a special moment and conversation with his mother.

Ned confides in his mother about the cat which relieves his guilt. His mother then confides to him that she left home for awhile when he was a toddler and lived alone because, as she explains it, his father was just too good, and she wasn’t like that. (Geez, I believe her if she left her toddler behind just because her spouse was too nice. I’m still at a loss as to why she’s laying this revelation on a young boy). In the end, the father finds them talking on the porch and says he’s glad they’re “home.”

I’m sure all this psychological tension would make good fodder for an adult book club, but as a matter of personal opinion, it seems a bit dreary for the tween set.

Teaching Moment: Ned’s father is a Protestant Minister, and while Ned eventually comes to peace with his guilt by confessing to his mother, we had a good conversation about how much better it would have been for Ned to have had the gift of the Sacrament of Penance where he could hear God’s forgiveness coming to him in human words, a little like what happened with his mother (but not sacramentally). Ned discovered the need for vocal confession, but he would have known about this naturally as a catechized Catholic.

See Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Spiritual effects of the Sacrament of Penance: 1496

Safety Rating: 1 Vatican Flag


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