Book Review/Synopsis



                          CHRISTMAS CATS

                                 A Literary Companion


                       Edited by Shirley Rosseau Murphy



This book is a potpourri of captivating stories which are sure to seize the imaginations of readers with assorted tastes.

Christmas is a season of happiness and joy for most, yet can be a time of loneliness for others. Cats often sense the feelings of their owners and react accordingly. They happily bound around the house as trees are decorated, jumping into storage boxes to help pull out the ornaments and garland. Others are more sedate as they offer needed solace and companionship to those who are alone during the holidays, caressing their legs and sitting quietly on laps while hands stroke their fur.

The stories in Christmas Cats embrace many situations. Some are quite touching, some are a little sad but all have a happy ending.   There are mysteries, rescues, humorous incidents and even     lessons in communication.


One tale I found was exceptionally clever and humorous. It is called “Vincent” by Jim Edgar. This feline is a runner and collector for a Mafia Top Cat named Rolfondo. As a kitten he had been owned by a drunken lawyer who treated him cruelly. He felt pity for his owner and never fought back. He learned perseverance and at the age of two finally escaped from a slit in the window. Living on his own for three years he became acutely streetwise, eventually joining the Mafia family.

It’s Christmas Eve and he has a delivery to make carrying a heavy satchel around his neck loaded with high grade catnip. Unlike other cats who become users, he is impervious to the weed and as such has become valued to the organization.

On his way he receives a message that he must first stop by to collect a debt.   It is a sizeable amount owed by two brothers known to be tough racketeers. What was to have been a bloody battle turned into a moment of compassion when one of the brothers, who was bleeding from a swipe administered by Vinnie, asked him for clemency. Remembering his own youth and the same unanswered looks given to his abusive owner he decides to give them more time to pay the debt, it being Christmas Eve and all.

He continues along the waterfront admiring all the festive lights on the moored boats. Then heads to the headquarters and confronts Rolfondo who is not happy that Vincent did not collect the money owed from the Phuong brothers. However, the Top Cat is pacified by the large amount of catnip he had collected and so sends Vincent home to his abandoned trailer to spend a lonely Christmas. All he ever wanted was a quiet life and a family of his own and here he was, all alone.

Christmas morning, however, this all changes.


Another story with a poignant theme is “My Mother’s Cat” by Renie Burghardt. Paprika was a cat who had been loved by a young girl all his life. When he was ten years old she died at age nineteen, two weeks after giving birth to a daughter.

Paprika became the link for the child to a mother she had never known. They were inseparable often having long conversations about her mother.

It was Hungry during WWII and her father had been killed in the conflict, so the child and Paprika lived with her maternal grandparents.

Through 1944, as the war intensified, the grandparents would take them out to various locations by a wooden wagon to escape the bombardments. Paprika never left her side.

Eventually, they moved away to a very rural area and the neighbors helped them build a bunker.

One Spring day in 1945 they spent the night in the bunker while planes and bombardment went on over them. Paprika remained a calming influence throughout. They came out in the morning to an eerily quiet day. As they walked towards the house two Russian solders told them to stop. Paprika dropped from her arms and ran towards them. The little girl ran after him and picked him up. The enemy soldier bent down to pet the cat. His daughter had a similar one. They were spared and the soldier became their friend.   Eventually, he was transferred.

That Christmas when the girl woke up, Paprika was curled next to her, cold and lifeless. She was nine and he nineteen. She swore she would never ever have another cat for her love had all been for him.

In 1947 they were able to escape from Hungry to Austria where they lived in a displaced- persons camp for four years.

In 1951 they managed to immigrate to America. Their first Christmas was filled with hope for a new life in a new country. That morning, as her grandmother was cooking a turkey, her grandfather pointed to a package under the tree that seemed to be bouncing around. What could be in it?


These are just two stories of the many diversified ones found in this book. There is something for everyone and a fitting addition to the Holiday Season. This is a nice anthology to be found wrapped under the Christmas tree, not only for cat fanciers but also for anyone of any age.

A glowing fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate, a cat in the lap and this book cracked open to start reading – what more could one ask for on Christmas night! ~ Marilu Shellie


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