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Book Review: “The Astonishing” Thing by Sandi Ward

My new habit is to read a bit from a book for a half hour before going to bed. I find it helps calm my mind enough to drift off to sleep. 

The first book I’ve finished this semester is called “The Astonishing Thing” by Sandi Ward. A heartfelt and fascinating read, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. 

“The Astonishing Thing” is told from the point of view of a cat named Boo—a fluffy, fat cat living with a loving family. The family consists of Mother, Father, Sister, Brother and Not a Cat (a dog). Soon a baby is added into the family. This happy home is broken up when one day Mother suddenly leaves. The world is turned upside down for both Boo and the family by her departure. Father and the kids must learn how to navigate through life without Mother. 

It is later revealed that Mother is bipolar, and her sudden manic and depressive episodes are the reason for her leaving. Another discovery is that the new baby is deaf, bringing in sign language tutor Charlotte. Charlotte brings the family together by teaching them all ways to use sign language, as well as easing the loneliness of Father. 

Having the story told by a cat is incredibly sweet, and it made me think of how our pets really see us. Do they have this complex understanding of us like Boo? Or do they think about food, sleep, and love in a simplistic way? Boo is a complicated storyteller, incredibly intelligent and capable of learning. Part of her appeal is her changing opinion of Mother. Boo originally believes Mother can do no wrong, despite the family constantly thinking back on Mother’s episodes. Most of these episodes consist of Mother lashing out or sometimes even being violent. 

After time passes though, Boo learns her love for Mother can still be strong even if she acknowledges Mother’s behavior is difficult on the family. She also acknowledges the other family members are not always to blame. Boo grows a character, finding a way to understand her strange human’s behavior while learning to navigate living without her favorite family member. 

Father originally is not overly fond of Boo. She was always Mother’s cat. But Boo and Father become increasingly more close over time, not only because he is the one now in charge of feeding him, but also because she comes to understand Father. She provides a sense of comfort for Father as he comes to terms with Mother leaving and navigating his feelings for Charlotte. 

Through brilliant storytelling and a sweet ending, The Astonishing Thing will delight cat lovers and those looking for a quick yet thoughtful read. I also recommend it for the dynamic of a family living with a member diagnosed with bipolar, and navigating having a baby born deaf. It adds more to the story, and the ending left me completely satisfied. Get this for your next read. I guarantee anyone who reads it will enjoy it as much as I did.

Shana is an English Literature and Secondary Education major. She loves to write and has been writing since early middle school. She hopes to have her first book published within the next few years. She also enjoys knitting, singing, and cooking.
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