Book Review: The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas

After an ill-advised affair as a young woman, Julia Romp became pregnant with son George. Julia knew being a single mother would be difficult but from the day of his birth, George was challenging. No matter how often she took him to doctors, the results were always the same, George would eventually grow out of his issues of being touched, making eye contact, exaggerated responses to noise, not sleeping and constant screaming. Watching other moms have warm, loving relationships with their children left Julia feeling like a failure as a mother and as George grew up, his behavior got worse. Then one magical day a scraggly black and white stray cat connected with nine-year-old George and for the first time, he began talking in sentences and relating to the world around him. Suddenly Julia had hope for her troubled autistic, learning-disabled son.

Although George’s problems were far from over, his interactions with the very special cat named Ben began drawing him into a meaningful relationship with Julia. George started making friends with teachers and students at the special school he attended. Three years after Ben arrived into their lives, he disappeared while in the care of a house sitter. George was beyond inconsolable and worse, blamed Julia for Ben’s disappearance. As days dragged into weeks and weeks into months, George became progressively more withdrawn and angry. Julia ran herself ragged to fulfill her promise to bring Ben home, an effort that was finally rewarded just before Christmas with a phone call from a family living seventy miles away. Miraculously, Ben survived and Julia was able to bring him home in time to give George the best Christmas ever.

This heartfelt autobiography admirably captures a mother’s determination to do whatever is best for her child despite the hardships that come with raising an undiagnosed autistic child while appealing to cat lovers. Set in London, Ben’s special relationship with George rings true to anyone who has shared a deep bond with an animal and showcases the powerful positive effects they have on our lives. Moving, sometimes heartbreaking, this story touches on the uglier side of human nature yet celebrates the power of hope and love. Highly recommended for families coping with special needs children and animal lovers alike.

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