Written by: James Bowen
Published By: Thomas Dunne Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Years ago, I heard about a young man in London who wrote a book about how a street cat helped save his life. James Bowen was a drug-addicted musician who couldn’t get straight until he met a street cat who needed him more than James needed drugs. He credits Bob with giving him the strength to get sober. I was incredibly interested in the story, having read similar stories in the past and knowing just how much a cat can mean in any individual’s life, regardless of what they are going through. I saw the movie, but I was really interested in reading the book that inspired it and just got around to doing so this past week.
A Street Cat Named Bob begins with James Bowen meeting a ginger tom in the hallway outside his flat. Believing the cat belonged to someone else, James passed it by. He had work to do – busking (playing music on the streets) so he can earn enough money for the flat he was living in. James had been embarking on the methadone program in hopes of eventually kicking the heroin habit he had developed. The flat he was currently staying in was arranged for him as part of the program and he didn’t want to lose it.
After a while, James realized that the ginger cat didn’t belong to anyone. Realizing that he must be hungry and noting his poor condition, James took him in. And so begins James’ journey toward a responsibility that would eventually lead to him becoming sober. As it would turn out, his new friend, now named Bob, would need his help getting over a street injury. But once Bob was well, he would help James with his busking, attracting extra attention and extra money.
As time wears on and a brush with the law leads James to realize that busking isn’t enough. He is responsible for another life other than his own now and he needs to have steadier work. A new job leads to some other difficulties, but through it all, Bob is James’ constant and his sense of responsibility towards this cat leads James further down the road to recovery.
As I read this book, I thought about rough patches in my life that I had gone through – luckily nothing as bad as James Bowen, but rough nonetheless. I realized that through many of these rough patches, it was the love of a cat that got me through. I could definitely relate to the feeling of responsibility James had toward Bob and how being responsible for someone else could help him be more responsible towards his own life. There’s that feeling that you don’t want to let that other individual down after all the affection and trust they have shown you.
And yet, I’m still amazed at how much James was able to do with his life after meeting Bob. Sure, James was already moving toward recovery, but it was Bob who kept him on the straight and narrow during this difficult journey and you could hear the love and respect James has for his ginger friend in his writing. Do I think Bob is the sole reason behind James getting clean? No, I think deep down, James was ready. I think Bob helped him stay the path, though, and that’s important enough to make Bob a very special being in James’ life.
A Street Cat Named Bob is a fast, engrossing and uplifting tale of how one cat helped a man turn his whole life around for the better. Fans of the movie should definitely check out the book – movies are always a bit sensationalized and this book tells things a tad more realistically, without the bits of romance thrown in. I loved every minute of the book and can’t wait to read the sequel, The World According to Bob!