Expected publication: July 18th 2017 by Atria Books
Format read: ARC via publisher
Homeless, alcoholic, and depressed, Michael King lives in a UPS loading bay on the wrong side of the tracks in Portland, Oregon. One rainy night, he stumbles upon a hurt, starving, scruffy cat and takes her in. Nursing her back to health, he names her Tabor and she becomes a bit of a celebrity in southeast Portland. When winter comes, they travel from Oregon to the beaches of California to the high plains of Montana, surviving blizzards and bears, angry steers and rainstorms. Along the way, people are drawn to the spirited, beautiful cat and moved to help Michael, who cuts a striking figure with Tabor riding high on his backpack or walking on a leash. Tabor comforts Michael when he’s down, giving Michael someone to love and care for, and inspiring him to get sober and to come to terms with his past family traumas and grief over the death of his life partner.
As they make their way across the West Coast, the pair become inseparable, healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts. But when Michael takes Tabor to a veterinarian in Montana, he discovers that Tabor has an identification chip and an owner in Portland who has never given up hope of finding his beloved cat, Michael makes the difficult choice to return to Portland and reunite Tabor with her owner. Now Michael must create a new purpose in his life after Tabor.
The authentic tale of an adventurous and charismatic cat and her compassionate human admirers, Strays proves the healing power of love and the profound bond between humans and animals.
On the one hand, who doesn't love an epic tale about a cat bringing multiple people, across thousands of miles? I sure do. Tabor's journey and willingness to persevere, is a wonderful reminder of how animals can help create extraordinary circumstances, which help people join together in even the toughest of times.
But on the other hand, I was left with the feeling of: "Ok. That was odd," throughout a lot of the book. It was bizarre reading about Tabor's first owner's depression, and his willingness to spend money and all of his time, fixated on finding his cat. While I know it was meant to show how Tabor's owner persevered through the darkest of times, Collins conveyed his genuine struggles in a way that made it difficult for me to sympathize or empathize with him. It just made me question his sanity.
Additionally, I actually spent a lot of time thinking, "Why can't they just get their lives together?" for both Tabor's first owner and for Michael. I realize it seems like a harsh criticism for real-life characters, but I do think that a lot of my issues are predicated on just how Collins introduced them and relayed their work. She made them seem like a perpetual victim of circumstance, verses people who are caught up in a very odd situation, but have powered their way through.
Ultimately, I liked the book, but likely wouldn't read it again or recommend.