Most cats don’t have lawyers. Most cats don’t need lawyers. But any cat who needed a lawyer would be fortunate to have one who is as diligent, honest, and conscientious as Sarah Bright Baynard, a.k.a. Sally, the protagonist of Lee Robinson’s thoroughly enjoyable new book, Lawyer for the Cat.
In her twenty-five years as a lawyer, Sally Baynard has seen a lot; she’s “represented the full spectrum of humanity,” as she puts it. But never has she had the great good fortune to represent a cat. Until a retiring judge appoints her as a trust enforcer whose job it is to…
But wait. I might have lost you at “trust enforcer.”
See, what happened is, a woman named Lila Mackay died, leaving a will with very specific instructions for how her cat, Beatrice, is to be cared for. Lila had named three people who might be good caregivers for Beatrice, who is to be provided “the same lifestyle, routine, and emotional environment as she has become accustomed to in [Lila’s] care.” In other words, she is to be treated as a cat should be treated. The caregiver will live in Lila’s beautiful but remote home with Beatrice and will receive $50,000 per year as long as Beatrice lives.
Sally’s job as trust enforcer is to interview the candidates and choose one. Until that choice is made, Sally also gets to take care of Beatrice (who, by the way, is a lovely black cat).
I say “gets” to take care of, but I don’t think Sally sees it as the great privilege it is. She’s got a lot going on already—taking care of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and trying to figure out what to do with Tony, the dishy veterinarian who is getting tired of Sally’s unwillingness or inability to pursue a closer relationship with him.
So nothing is simple. Sally’s character is far from simple. She’s not all warm and fuzzy, and she doesn’t fall in love with Beatrice. Sally, in her diligent manner, does her duty toward Beatrice, and she does it with the cat’s well-being in mind. But she’s not the kind of cozy character for whom the cat mends her broken relationships and basically just fixes everything wrong in her life.
Sally has a depth, a complexity, that we appreciated. Her life is messy, and she doesn’t really know what to do with large parts of it. We like her, because she is just so real. We also like that she takes this unusual situation so seriously. As I said, any cat who ever needed a lawyer would want one just like Sally.
We found Lawyer for the Cat to be a quick, enjoyable read, and one that’s hard to put down. It’s a page turner not because it’s suspenseful (although there is some of that, along with humor and heartache) but because it’s just a good story well told. Yes, we would have liked to see more of the cat, but in the end, we were just happy to know that Beatrice had someone like Sally looking out for her.
A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!