CONVERSATIONS WITH TOM by Angela Lockwood

CONVERSATIONS WITH TOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A romantic comedy about the bond among a British man, his cat, and the special woman who wins both their hearts. 

Handsome Jeff Dunster is seemingly happily married to Lisa, a driven woman who works in finance. They live outside Hastings, England, with a boisterous ginger kitten named Tom, who adores his master more than canned tuna. If one of Jeff’s entrepreneurial schemes would pay off—such as his notion of an antiques shop with a coffee bar—then life would be perfect. But Lockwood (Blood Ties, 2015) has other ideas for her protagonist, as every plan ends disastrously. Meanwhile, Tom regularly wakes Jeff and Lisa at 4 a.m. and keeps biting people; nothing, including small animals, wallpaper, and handbags, is safe around the frisky beast. When Lisa leaves Jeff for a new man, he processes this by pouring out his heart to Tom, pretending that the feline is his personal adviser. Meanwhile, Tom offers his own commentary directly to readers. When the cat is injured in a fight, Jeff meets Kirsten Wallace, a veterinarian, and the rest of the novel chronicles their deepening romantic connection. The idea of a man learning about love via his relationship with his cat is a terrific premise, and the opening scenes, in which Tom describes his time as an “inmate” at a pet shelter, are poignant and bittersweet. Lockwood makes inventive use of the e-book format, at one point linking to a cute cat video. Lighthearted quizzes also pepper the story, inviting reader engagement. However, Lockwood pulls her narrative punches, as neither Tom nor Jeff face real challenges that would prompt character development. Instead, the dramatic tension evaporates every time; at one point, for example, Jeff is on the verge of homelessness—right before he inherits a house in London and 40,000 pounds (roughly $51,000). There’s dramatic potential in an admittedly predictable clash between Kirsten’s overbearing father and her underachieving suitor, but this fizzles due to another character’s inexplicable magnanimity. As a result, the happy ending, while somewhat satisfying, still feels unearned.

Superficial characterizations and a pileup of absurdities scupper this novel’s early promise. 

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 2017
ISBN: 978-2-9554053-4-5
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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