But First, Rumi (Ant Press, December 2020)
A young woman in Oman finds a scrawny “ginger and white cat” on her apartment staircase. The cat is undernourished, dehydrated, and injured.
Reluctant to make contact with a stray cat, Chitra is hesitant about reaching out. But compassion wins. She eventually takes the cat in and nurses it back to health. (The “she” cat is originally named Naaz until the author discovers the cat is male. She rechristens the stray “Rumi” after a favorite poet.)
An unexpected friendship begins to bloom as the author battles a mysterious, debilitating illness while becoming increasingly attached to her new feline friend. And vice-versa. As Chitra learns to love “the little stray,” she begins “to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country, and her place in the world.”
They wind up saving each other.
Takes a While
Told in the first person, the story takes a while to get rolling. Much of the early chapters are taken up with descriptions of trips to the airport and the vet. Buying cat food and a litter box. Fending off neighborhood bullies, both human and feline. Watching Rumi sleep. Buying toys for Rumi. Watching Rumi hide from a “Danger billi” cat. Interactions with neighbors and family members.
While a sweet story with a lilting cadence, there may not be enough here to grab or retain the interest of casual readers.
Still, highlighting the conditions of stray cats and dogs in Oman and elsewhere make it worth the read. The narrative winds down on a high note of tenacity, optimism and hope for a better tomorrow for both humans and animals.
The book concludes with a separate section on WHY SHOULD THE STRAY CATS IN OMAN MATTER AND WAYS TO MOVE FORWARD. It contains much additional information and ways to offer practical help.
Readers who understand and appreciate the unique and mysterious link between animals and the humans who love them will enjoy this sweet, gentle story.
About the Author
Chitra Ramaswami was born and raised in the Middle East by Indian parents, and her childhood was spent reading every book she could lay her hands on or writing stories and lines of poetry. As a result of traveling the world extensively and being a natural linguist, she is an amalgamation of many cultures and tastes and is constantly looking for the next experience she can immerse herself in.
When she isn’t writing, Chitra rides horses, climbs mountains and is a passionate advocate for the Omani Mau/ street cat. She currently lives in New York with her husband and a very spoiled cat and hamster duo.
Find her online at: https://cramaswami.com/
Note: We were invited to read and review this book as part of a blog tour hosted by WOW! Women on Writing.