Review: ‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw’ tells serious, thoughtful story

It’s easy to tell when a book has been written from the heart — it’s got a genuine quality that shines from every page.

Barry Jackson cover art

‘Furry Paw, Middle Claw,’
Hardcover; $24.99; 217 Pages

“Furry Paw, Third Claw,” by Barry Jackson, is just such a book. Though it is a novel, it draws heavily on Jackson’s life and the many cats that, willingly or not, he came to know and share his home with.

Told from the human point of view, the cats nonetheless dominate the narrative. Like many men, when Dean Parker meets Melissa, the love of his life, his choice was to accept her, cats and all, or face life without her. He grudgingly accepts the two cats into his home, secretly hoping he can somehow get rid of them or — a hope even more vain — change Melissa.

He uses lots of humor to tell of his secret battle with the cats to be the dominate animal in his own home, but it is the humor of hindsight. This is a serious story, involving quite a bit of loss and heartache.

The novel really is about Parker’s journey out of a lonely childhood darkened by the knowledge his mother didn’t want him to an adulthood in which he learns to be a loving family man with a deeper understanding of himself and the cosmos. Along the way, nearly a dozen cats come in and out of his life — each with lessons to impart.

These lessons aren’t easy, nor are they conveyed with a sweet purr and a cuddly demeanor. We can’t imagine many men putting up with the spraying, shedding, smelly litter boxes, yowling, clawing and generally untamed behavior that Parker endures. Melissa is a rescuer, quick to adopt street cats, feral kittens and felines with serious wounds or illnesses. At one point, Parker calculates that over the course of their marriage, he and Melissa have spent $121,000 caring for their cats. (And there would be still more to come!)

And it’s not long before four cats at a time becomes the norm in their household. Parker eventually begins to appreciate their better qualities — and love Melissa all the more for her generous heart. The real turning point for him comes, though, when their son Craig is diagnosed with autism and one cat in particular, Dash, becomes the boy’s friend, companion and pathway into the wider world.

Looking back on his life toward the end of the novel, Parker comments,

“I believe it was my destiny to live my adult life with Melissa, Craig, and the cats. Cats came into my life in the same way I found Melissa and Theo [a friend], by chance or by fate. They recognized my moods and helped me just by being there with their love that knew no limits. However, life with the kitties was not always roses: hairballs in shoes, sinks used as litter pans, a dead vole brought to my pillow, birds carted into the house to be shredded beyond recognition, and tens of thousands of dollars of vet bills. It was always easy to forgive the cats for their transgressions because they were innocent. Forgiving people was not as easy.”

The title of the novel, “Furry Paw, Middle Claw” means just what you think it might. This is a realistic book; Jackson doesn’t make any attempt in the novel to get inside his cats’ heads or sentimentalize them. He describes their behaviors, good and bad, and their effects on Dean Parker and his family. Parker’s transformation into cat lover is gradual, therefore believable, and never quite total — just like Parker’s coming to terms with his emotionally abusive childhood and the place he makes for himself in the world.

Jackson, a CPA who has served a chief operating officer of several New York City law firms (according to his officials biography), live in New Jersey with his wife and four cats. This is his first novel. While his writing in spots shows the greenness of a new author, the novel is very readable and rewarding.

“Furry Paw, Middle Claw,” published June 1, is available for Kindle and in hardback from Amazon or the publisher at (ISBN: 978-1-938501-10-4).

We give this book four paws!

Review: ‘Purrs of Wisdom’ aptly named

Ingrid King’s cat Ruby graces the cover of her new book.

We know that living with cats can make people happier and less stressed. But can cats also help humans be healthier, more organized and smarter?

We think so, but don’t take our word for it — read “Purrs of Wisdom,” the new book by Ingrid King, who writes the award-winning blog, “The Conscious Cat,” and produces a wonderful website that she accurately describes as “a comprehensive resource for conscious living, health, and happiness for cats and their humans.”

Much of “Purrs of Wisdom” is drawn from Ms. King’s interesting, helpful — and, yes, wise — blog. Her regular readers should be very happy to find all that good advice drawn together in one volume. New readers will discover many pearls — urr, purrs — to enrich their lives and increase their appreciation of the cats they know.

We read the book straight through, but we admit that’s not the best way to approach it. Just as you might be tempted to wolf down a whole bag of treats if you get the chance, it’s better to enjoy the chapters one or two at a time and really savor their goodness. Otherwise you might be tempted to skim over some important lessons thinking they are repetitious when Ms. King really is providing constructive emphasis and subtle new angles on key points.

King bases “Purrs of Wisdom” — and “The Conscious Cat” — on her own daily observations and interactions with the cats who share her life. This results in a practical simplicity that we find is the book’s chief appeal. You can read any chapter and act on it immediately.

There are chapters on healthy eating, the importance of sleep, learning from nature, eliminating negativity from your life, techniques to find your dreams, aging gracefully and much more. Unfortunately for humans, they can’t purr, she notes. But just learning to breathe correctly, for example, can have a similar healing effect on the human body and mind.

All this she tells with heartfelt love for her feline mentors.

The golden thread running throughout the book is essential catness: Live in the moment and discover the importance of contemplation and gratitude. Observe the cats you know, then emulate them.

Cats are centered beings, and you can be, too. From that inner calm flows all the good in life.

It’s easy to see that Ms. King is a true cat person — her cats are not mere “pets” but genuine companions and guides. Cats changed her life and helped her reach her dreams. That can happen for you, too, if you are willing to watch and learn.

The book is available on Kindle at the moment but is expected to be in print soon.

We give this book four paws!

We love this book!

Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Hudson Talbott knows his audience. He knows cats.

“It’s All About Me-Ow – A Young Cat’s Guide to the Good Life” ” by Hudson Talbott (Nancy Paulsen Books 2012; ISBN 978-0-399-25403-1; $16.99 USA/$18.00 Canada. Hardcover)

With a title like “It’s All About Me-Ow,” how could we resist his new book? Clearly, this book is a serious scholarly tome aimed at bridging the feline-human communications divide. With lots of fun pictures! All are very colorful and full of detail.

We think he must have been a cat in another life. His narrator, Buddy, welcomes three kittens into his home and teaches them how to wrap their new human family around their little paws. They learn about why cats are superior to people, the value of “purr therapy” to a busy family, how to get the most fun out of the furniture, how to train a human and lots more.

Our favorite parts, though, were the history of the cat and the cat family tree (and not just because he put a Siamese cat in that picture!) We could spend hours looking at those pages.

Mischief has a question about cats in ancient Egypt.

The best thing about this book, though, is that it gave us lots to talk about. Where did the kittens come from? What are their names? Is this their forever home or are these really, really nice people who foster homeless kitties? What is Buddy’s story and why is he so welcoming to these adorable competitors for food and laps? What happens next??

Trouble wants to know more.

We will be waiting eagerly for Mr. Talbott to write a sequel that answers these questions. If Hollywood calls, there’s opportunity for a prequel as well.

In the meantime, though, it’s fun to let our imaginations run wild! That’s the best kind of book.

The only thing we don’t like about this book? It gives away too many feline secrets. Cats, we need to keep our people guessing! We’ll be keeping an eye out for you, Hudson Talbott.

We give this book our highest rating: 5 Paws!