Best-selling Cisneros (Caramelo, 2002, etc.) chronicles a search for a runaway cat that turns into a way to work through grief and discover community.
When Rosalind arrives in San Antonio after a three-day drive from Washington state, her cat, Marie, promptly takes off. “Marie had cried the whole way,” says the narrator. “I felt like crying and taking off too. My mother had died a few months before.” You can hardly call this fiction, since Cisneros tells us in the afterword that she wrote it in the wake of her mother’s death, that “the real Marie eluded capture for over a week,” and that the illustrations by San Francisco-based artist Hernández are portraits of Cisneros’ actual neighbors in San Antonio. Indeed, the tang of real life gives some needed grit to a rather anodyne account. As the narrator and Rosalind canvass the neighborhood in search of Marie, they encounter well-meaning folks who want to help but are preoccupied with their own lives. “We can do a river search on horseback,” says one neighbor. “But my kid is coming over this weekend. Can you wait till next week?” A “jogger mom” pushing a runner’s baby carriage doesn’t even wait to hear their plea, and other people are sympathetic but wrapped up in their own pain: One lost her mother and brother within a year; another has a sister battling cancer. These glimpses of selfishness and sorrow make up for some overly whimsical moments when the seekers question squirrels, dogs and cats and imagine their responses. The deliberately informal, rough-edged illustrations give a nice sense of Cisneros’ multicultural, bohemian neighborhood, and only die-hard cynics would begrudge the author her sweet but predictable culminating scene in which the narrator finds solace in a sense of unity with the natural world.
Neither groundbreaking nor especially penetrating, this warmhearted tale offers comfort to anyone coping with the loss of a loved one.