When I told my agent I was quitting my job to write full-time, he said, “Great, because I just got off the phone with a librarian in Iowa who wants to write a book about her cat.”
I thought he was crazy. Of course. But I got on the phone with Vicki Myron—why not, right?—and we hit it off. Four hours of conversation later, I was fully committed to helping her tell the story of Dewey, the kitten she had found almost dead in the library book return box twenty-two years before. I drove from Kentucky to Iowa and spent three weeks with her. We talked for eight hours some days—about her life, libraries, farming, Iowa, the town of Spencer, and of course Dewey. We put every Dewey story in the book, and that was a lot of cat stories.
I could see immediately, though, that Dewey’s life was entwined with Vicki and the town of Spencer, and that persistence was the common thread. The book Vicki and I wrote is three interlocking stories: how a determined Baby-boomer woman created her dream job; how a proud town survived a changing world; and the full-of-personality cat that inspired them both.
I still remember the moment it clicked. I had been questioning Vicki about her life, and she kept saying, “It’s nothing. It’s boring.” But her family lost their farm when she was a teenager. They didn’t have money for college, so she worked in a box factory. (Her younger brother was sent to college instead.) She was in the hospital with complications from the birth of her first child for almost two years. When she came out, she realized her husband was an alcoholic. It took her seven years to work up the courage to leave him. One brother committed suicide; another died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Both were in their 20s. Her mom battled breast cancer seven times before it killed her. Vicki’s own breast cancer resulted in a double mastectomy. She raised a daughter on her own, without financial help.
I said, “Wow, Vicki, your life has been hard.”
She said, “What do you mean? I have a great life. I love my town. I love my job. I have a wonderful family and great friends. And I have Dewey.”
That, in two lines, is Dewey. It is about finding your place, finding your passion, and finding good friends—human and otherwise—to share it with.
Or as the publisher wrote in the flap copy: How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can’t even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.
Wonderful and inspiring.
This beguiling, poignant, and tender tale…is an unforgettable study in the mysterious and wondrous ways animals, and libraries, enrich humanity.