BOOK NOOK: I doubt you’ll ever find a better book about cats

As I am typing this review I have a cat on my lap-she is purring. Which seems appropriate since I’m writing about Caleb Carr’s brilliant new memoir, “My Beloved Monster - Masha, the Half-Wild Rescue Cat Who Rescued Me”. I’m a cat guy — so was he.

The book came out in April, Carr died on May 23. This was the final book he felt compelled to write after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Carr grew up in New York City in a violent household. His father was an alcoholic who administered regular beatings to his son. Early on Carr encountered creatures who offered him boundless affection; cats, he discovered the joys of feline companionship.

He had known and cherished many cats by the time he went to an animal shelter and met a young cat who seemed to bond with him instantly. He adopted her, named her Masha, and spent the next 17 years savoring a relationship that became the great romance of his life.

Masha and Carr had something in common, abuse. Masha had been abandoned in a locked apartment and was eventually rescued at the point of starvation. Her trauma made it difficult for her to ever be in confinement again. Carr lived alone in a big house located in a rural part of New York that he called Misery Mountain.

While he had friends and family he saw occasionally Masha became his constant chosen companion. They formed a deep bond and had a secret language they shared. Masha was a Siberian Forest Cat, she roamed over the acreage she considered her domain.

The author describes a couple of occasions when Masha didn’t return to the house as it was getting dark. Carr became frantic, searching everywhere for her. I’ll leave it to readers to discover the amazing adventures and feats of survival Masha experienced. Both times she was finally located, gravely injured, roosting in trees, waiting for Carr to find her.

These two grew old together. They both received grave diagnoses at around the same time, terminal cancer. According to Carr they had made a mutual pact; please don’t die, let’s stay alive for each other. After Masha died Carr got to work writing this memoir.

He knew he didn’t have much time. This book is a thing of beauty. He understood cats. He preferred Masha’s company to that of most humans. He talks about the real scars and the psychic ones and how the abuse he endured as a child had made him decide to never have children of his own because the cycle of abuse finally had to stop.

Have you ever felt a deep affection for a cat? You’ll treasure this true story. It is a masterpiece. I wept upon realizing I had been reading it on the very day the author’s tortured existence finally ended. He hoped to be reunited with his beloved Masha somewhere in an afterlife.

By the way, I still have a cat on my lap. A different one now! We have seven.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

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