At age twelve, having gone from house cat to stray cat twice before stumbling into Paul and Jeremy’s lives and deciding to adopt them, Fester has never lost his optimism and innocence.
Over the course of the next six to seven years, Fester witnesses the ups and downs of Paul and Jeremy’s relationship, their struggles with work and family, as well as their triumphs and successes, both personally and professionally. Fester muses about his life and provides his observations, opinions, and input into Paul and Jeremy’s daily lives. What may seem mundane to most people is seen differently by Fester, the routine is comforting and safe.
Sadly, the stresses of an overly demanding manager pushes Jeremy to the edge, and Paul decides that some time away would be the best idea to get a breather from the tension at home and re-evaluate their relationship. At around the same time, Fester’s former “leader” Bessy turns up at Fester’s house and stakes a tentative claim of her own. She settles into a new routine of days lounging in the comfort of Paul and Jeremy’s house and nights on the prowl. Fester decides to join Bessy on her rounds and soon realizes that he is not meant for that life anymore, just like Paul realizes that his place is at home with Jeremy and Fester Cat.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and this is where Fester’s failing health causes fear and stress for Paul and Jeremy. Fester is not just a cat, Fester is family, and they will do anything they can for Fester, right up until the end. When Paul and Jeremy met the thin, mangy, flea-bitten creature that had snuck into their home that day many years before, they had been together for 10 years, and like Fester, never realized what they had been missing until Fester decided to adopt them.
Is this a story of a cat? Yes. Is this the story of two men in love? Yes. Is the narrator Fester Cat? Yes and no.
Paul Magrs took the loss of his beloved Fester Cat and used it as a jumping off point to chronicle his and Jeremy’s lives from the time Fester arrived and adopted them up to Fester’s death at about age 18.
We are all voyeurs in one way or another, and even the most boring of activities, such as the lives of two men and their cat, seen through a metaphorical window, as mundane as it may seem, can be riveting. As Fester narrates their lives, I gradually came to realize to realize that Paul was using Fester Cat to distance himself from certain events to gain perspective and at other times, he used personification to make Fester more than just a cat. There were many wonderful quotes in The Story of Fester Cat but the one that was the most powerful and struck a chord for both me and the characters was this one:
That’s what the nine lives thing means. It doesn’t mean that we’re immortal, though some of us seem to have the luck of the devil. No, it means that we are used to the idea that we must change and adapt and become other people sometimes. And this means that at certain points we must turn our backs on who and what we used to be.
Fester’s observations are in fact Paul’s, and at that point in the story, things are tough for the guys. They must figure out where they want to go, where they need to go, and what part of the past they must let go of in order to achieve a viable future.
We were essentially invited into Paul, Jeremy, and Fester’s lives and it truly felt natural to join them at the breakfast table, and in the garden, as they went about their daily lives. The flow of the story was very effective and if you take a moment to read the Author’s notes at the end, you will find out why Magrs chose to lay the story out in this way.
Will I re-read The Story of Fester Cat? I am not sure. I am not sure if I can relive the loss of my own “Fester Cat,” Boo Boo, again as he too was a stray, entered our home and our hearts, and became ill at the young age of 15. We too had to make a decision to make, and although I don’t regret it, I still miss him to this day. The stories he could tell, just like Fester Cat.
P.S. I cried while reading the book, and I cried as I wrote this review, just saying…