“Books have survived television, radio, talking pictures, circulars … , dailies … , Punch and Judy shows, and Shakespeare’s plays. They have survived World War II, the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, and even the fall of the Roman Empire. They even survived the Dark Ages, when almost no one could read and each book had to be copied by hand. They aren’t going to be killed off by the Internet.” — Vicki Myron
Vicki Myron’s non-fiction hit, Dewey, has held an unusual piece of my undivided attention.
Dewey is the story of a librarian who finds a kitten stuffed in the drop-box of small-town Spencer, Iowa’s public library. After nursing it back to health, she and her staff decide to adopt it as the town’s first library cat. Thus, the book chronicles the life of this cat, dubbed Dewey Readmore Books, and how he made a difference in his community, in his library, and in the life of the author and her family.
True, it’s a typical animal story, and in this day and age, animal stories tend to be fairly predictable. After all, there’s only so many ways you can write about how a lovable animal who can’t speak or emote can touch a community. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but get lost in Dewey’s story. Even though I knew how the story was going to turn out from merely reading the title and the dust jacket alone, it captivated me and kept urging me through it page after page until the very end. If I had all the time in the world to read a book, this one would’ve been completed in half a day.
The big reason, I think, is because the title character plays a supporting role while his human friends and owners take center stage. You’ll come for Dewey, but you’ll stay for the small town resilience against marching progress, the search for meaning against the pain, and the search for personal identity against all odds. You’ll read on because you can see yourself in the people of Spencer, Iowa. The author, knowingly or not, poses a question to her readers. “What do you really value in life?” And her readers follow through to the end as they seek their answer, not only of the motives of the characters, but of their own motives.
And this, readers, is when a book ceases to be mere entertainment and blossoms into art.
The entire package seemed so real and heartfelt, unlike the glossy and dramatic sweeping epics that so many publishers seem to think their readers want. As I read it, I felt as if the author herself was sitting down and speaking directly to me. This is why I read books, for that feeling of human contact. “I’ll wait for the movie.” some people say, but movies can’t deliver this kind of personal touch. A movie is made by a cast and crew of hundreds and directed to the masses, but you can’t help but feel that a book is written for and is speaking directly to you. Even if Dewey was aimed at the masses, it still manages to speak to me on a personal level. Whenever Ms. Myron gives us the tragic details of her life, it never feels like a reach for dramatic tension, and that’s what makes Dewey so interesting and inviting. It beckons the reader into the parlor, rather than prodding them into the corral.
So, what’s my verdict?
In conclusion, I think that Dewey is a very good read that is well worth the time put into it. Since finishing it, I have recommended it to everyone I know, even if they’re not a cat person. No, it may not play your emotions like a fiddle or offer thrills on every page, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of things to like and a lot of characters to relate to. It reads fast and easy. It’s also a prime example of respect for the reader as well as characters taking precedence over plot, making it a good study in writing as well.
I say, “Read it!”