The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It

cat love spirituality

"Master storyteller Roth takes us on a deep, joyful, provocative and ultimately nourishing journey. I couldn't put it down from beginning to end. Her honesty moved me to have the courage to look again at what I am truly hungry for."
-- Justine Willis Toms, New Dimensions Radio, Co-author of True Work: Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do

Editorial Review From Publishers Weekly

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.

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"I guarantee that this "totally brilliant, I was utterly blown away" book (in writer Anne Lamott's words), will fill up every craggy hole you may have in your heart, and then some. I could not put it down -- I was so deeply nourished, in all the right places. The book is billed as a "self-help" book on finding happiness. It is indeed. I felt happy reading it, and its message is bound to help me stay happy, too. But the book is so much more than that. It is a delightful, hilarious, fierce, and tender memoir about the author's life with her beloved father, Bernard, and a remarkable twenty-pound cat named Mister Blanche, and how these two taught her to love without reservation and live without the crippling fear we all have when we think of losing the ones we love.

Geneen Roth is the bestselling author of When Food is Love. She is not a stranger to hard struggles, despair, and addiction. The lessons she gleaned from her sojourn with her family and Mister Blanche, and the way she brings these insights to her readers, make this book a healing tonic for anyone daunted (or delighted) by life in the human body, on planet Earth. I cannot recommend this book enough. You will howl with laughter, cry uncontrollably, want to go hug your pet or your children, and, ultimately, feel a rare and blessed peace seeping through your veins, helping you know that all is very, very well."

-- The Isabella Catalogue

emotional healing lossA friend once told me that love was like the Midtown Tunnel: big enough to hold a lot of commotion and strong enough to withstand a few wrecks. But I didn't believe him. To me love meant pain, and being vulnerable meant being hurt. In daily life this translated to my belief that the less I loved assorted beings (people, birds, cats, dogs), the less shattered I would be when they left or died. I also believed I could monitor and control who, when, and how much I loved. Then my friend Sally foisted a cat her husband didn't want on me, and my entire life-including my beliefs about love, death, redemption and cat birthday parties -- changed forever.

Although I didn't particularly like cats or consider myself an animal person, I fell inexplicably, stunningly, madly in love with Blanche and by the time he was two-years-old, would have given up everything I had to keep him alive indefinitely. Since he seemed to be the key that had pried my winched heart open I believed it -- and I would bang shut if he died.

Despite every precaution taken to ensure his immortality, Blanche died after seventeen-and-a-half years. His death, following closely after my father's death sent me reeling into a regressed, desperate, quicksand grief. But as I allowed myself to feel the losses of both my father and Blanche, rather than drown in them, and as I learned to stay in the present moment rather than wander off into self-constructed drama, my experience of loss utterly changed-and I along with it. I stopped fighting, stopped resisting, stopped believing it would be better if the beings and people I loved lived forever. I began to feel as if I were gliding in a kind of vastness through which life as I knew it was being blazed.

The Craggy Hole in My Heart is a tale about the crucible of love. When we deeply enter into relationship with another being-a cat, a dog, a person-we are ultimately saying, "I am willing to go through the grief of being there when you die. Or of leaving you behind when I die." The book, then, is about opening the heart enough to love full-tilt, then losing what you love most and surviving. About coming to terms with what you believe will destroy you. It's about love like the Midtown Tunnel.