The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It : Over the Edge and Back with My Dad, My Cat, and Me
Geneen Roth's legions of fans have always responded to her humor and honesty, her warmth and savvy. Those qualities, so present in The Craggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It, take us deep into the story of a remarkable twenty-pound cat, Mister Blanche, and Geneen's beloved father, Bernard, and the ways in which each taught her to love without reservation and to accept the fact that she might someday lose those whom she believed she could not live without.
In these remarkable, inspiring, and joyous pages, we discover along with Geneen how to break free of the same fears that may drive us to eat or drink or shop too much. Fear of being vulnerable, fear of death, fear of losing what we want most: These are the demons that can inhibit our ability to embrace life freely and fully.
Come meet Mister Blanche and the charming Bernard and immerse yourself in a poignant and funny story that is Geneen's best. As her loyal readership already knows: It's not about food, it's not about the cat . . . it's always been about love and how to live with it--and never live without it!
Roth's 1991 bestseller, When Food is Love, analyzed the connection between compulsive eating and intimacy, and all of her subsequent books dealt with eating issues as well, but in this stellar memoir cum self-help book, she broadens her scope to address the larger issues of love, trust and family. Roth's witty and self-deprecating personality comes across on every page as she recounts how the adoption of a cat changed her life, allowing her to open up, as well as to accept and give love. A decade of yo-yo dieting--she gained and lost over 1,000 pounds--had left Roth lonely and broken, with little faith in the existence of loving relationships ("Why love someone who is just going to turn around and either leave or die?" she wondered). Her cat, Blanche, was the first creature to break through her defenses, and her boyfriend (now her husband), Matt, was the next. Aside from some recurring panic attacks, everything went along swimmingly, until Roth's father was diagnosed with cancer and she was forced to confront the dark veins of deception that had always been present in their seemingly golden relationship. Roth narrates her journey in short, engrossing chapters, and also helps readers help themselves by splicing in tidbits about the psychology of attachment and the rewards of spiritual exploration. Readers who love cats will eat up every adoring word Roth writes about Blanche, and fans of Anne Lamott-style writing will line up for this book, but its real value lies in its sharp dissection of child-parent relationships.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 27, 2005
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Excerpt from The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It by Geneen Roth
When my friend Sally called to tell me that I needed a kitten, and fortunately, her cat Pumpkin was pregnant, I said no, absolutely not.
I didn't want a pet, I didn't like cats, and I didn't want to love anything that could die before me.
I was thirty-three years old, single, and living alone in a house with a garden, three leaky skylights, and a crooked path to a sheltered beach in Santa Cruz, California. After seventeen years of struggling madly with emotional eating, and being as insane as anyone I'd ever met-I'd gained and lost over a thousand pounds-I'd finally crawled out of the compulsion by giving up dieting altogether. More recently, I'd settled at my natural weight, written two books, and begun teaching national workshops about breaking free from emotional eating.
But my obsession with food was a walk in the park compared to the chaos that ensued whenever the possibility of love walked into my life. At the time of Sally's call, I was in a "relationship"-I use that term loosely-with Harry-the-Rake, a self-confessed lothario, who alternated between wanting to move in with me and telling me I was too fat. I was convinced that my heart was either on permanent sabbatical or missing some essential ingredients-the ones that allowed normal people to take risks, to discern the bad guys from the good, to say come closer, hold me, go away. And I was wary of opening to anyone or anything that would depend on me to come through. I didn't trust myself to show up. I didn't think I had the capacity for big love.
Pumpkin gave birth to two kittens whom Sally immediately named Blanche and June. My mother, visiting from New York at the time, wanted to see them. At two hours old, they looked like wet weasels, and I wasn't impressed. My mother went straight for the white kitten. Take this one, she crooned, as she stroked the slicked-back fur of the shut-eyed rodent, but I wasn't taking anything so fast.
A few weeks later, Sally called and said her husband didn't want a white cat, and so Blanche was mine. Usually, I am the one who bosses people around, but Sally was completely sure of herself, absolutely positive that having this pet was a precursor to having a life. So I told her I would take the kitten on one condition: if I didn't like being a cat mother, I could return it in two weeks, like a pair of gloves from Macy's. She agreed.
It's not that I'd never had a pet. My grandmother gave me a parakeet named Cookie when I was seven. She rode around the house on my shoulder, sat on the desk while I did homework, and pecked at my eyelashes when I closed my eyes. One day, my brother opened the front door and Cookie flew out of the house. I cried for weeks. I decided then that the next thing I loved was not going to be able to fly away. We settled on goldfish, but the one we called Tallulah got out of the bowl somehow and flipped around the house. My mother and I ran after her with a strainer, but we couldn't catch her, and she died under the brown paisley couch. Then there was a puppy named Cocoa, who pooped in my father's slipper right before he stepped into it one Sunday morning, and by Monday, she had gone to live somewhere else.
When she heard that Sally wanted to give me a kitten, my friend Sophie told me her pet story. After her mother died and her husband left her for another woman, she thought she was going crazy-the kind of crazy where a psychotic break was two weeks away. On a particularly rough day, a group of friends tried to make her feel better, but she sensed their fear. The fact that her best friends couldn't be with her sorrow made her feel even more frightened, more alone. Then her dog, Squeak, jumped in her lap and fell asleep. In that moment, she says Squeak saved her life. He cut through the drama, walked directly on the fiber of feelings, and stayed there, as if pain and grief were no big deal-as natural as chasing squirrels. His relaxation dissolved her fears of going crazy. After that, she was left with a broken heart, and as much as that hurt, she knew it would mend.
Though I was glad Sophie had her dog, I'd heard these sappy tales before-a boy and his dog, a girl and her parrot, the wolf who saved the family from a fire-and didn't see what they had to do with me. I still didn't want a cat.
During our first few days together I refuse to be charmed by Blanche, although every time I turn a corner, she is there, crouching behind philodendron leaves, or stalking an ant or a dust mote or my big toe. When I say no, she doesn't hold a grudge. When I push her away, she comes back. Blanche's affection doesn't waver if my hair sticks straight up in the mornings or if I am having a fat day. She seems to be looking beneath the surface of things at some backward-spreading light I am not aware of.