A lost kitten comes to symbolise all the love that we find so hard to grasp in life.
While at a writers retreat in Tuscany, Italy, American writer Mary Gaitskill adopted a stray cat. The kitten was one of a litter, scrawny and blind in one eye, that presented itself for patting. It seemed to have chosen the writer, even though she didn't want a kitten, especially one with special needs that would have to be brought back to the US. Despite all this, Gaitskill took the kitten to the vet, looked after it, got its shots so it could travel, and took it home. She first named the kitten “Chance”, but finally decided on Gattino. She settled Gattino into her new house, letting the kitten outside under supervision, but one day when she rushed inside to attend to something, he went missing.
Gattino was just seven months old. Gaitskill was heartbroken and went to extraordinary lengths to find her kitten, even employing psychics. There were a few suspected sightings, from less than reliable witnesses, but in the end it was accepted that Gattino must have died. A none too happy ending to a story about a pitiful kitten.
Interwoven through this story of Gattino is a series of personal dramas involving family members and adopted children, especially Gaitskill's emotionally complicated relationship with her father. Lost Cat works more as an extended autobiographical essay and asks the question, is it wrong to invest so much love in a small kitten, when our human relationships are so difficult?
“...the metaphor for love that I feel more deeply is a lost, hungry little animal dying as it tries to find its way back home in the cold. It isn’t truer. But I feel it more. “
A bracing, honest piece of autobiography, one that has an ineffable sadness about it.
Lost Cat, by Mary Gaitskill. Published by Daunt Books. $19.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books