Stacy Horn's day is filled with thoughts of death. At 41, once-married, now-single, living in New York City, her life is filled with what most people would think is an interesting array of activities: running Echo, her own Internet community; playing drums in a samba band; singing once a week with a choral society; dating and hobnobbing among the downtown literati of Manhattan; caring for two diabetes-ridden but lovable cats. So what's up with the death stuff? After you get done with WAITING FOR MY CATS TO DIE, you will understand completely her obsessions --- and love her all the more for them.
Horn's book is a funny, touching, honest look at a life in the process. There are quick-cut moments from her life stashed away in little containers or chapters called Nostalgia. There is the ongoing search for relatives and others who have either died or are on their way to death in chapters entitled simply Death. She peppers those accounts of lives well-lived or almost completely lived, some of which are incredibly moving, with stories about her cats, in chapters called Cats. It starts to look like Horn has some really specific ways of charting her life, the moments of it and the overarching hope for something better to come along someday --- mainly a guy, a true love, a companion for the rest of her life --- that will somehow overshadow the omniscient presence and constant study and preparation for death.
She calls this an early mid-life crisis, but it is really the path by which she encounters her deepest desires and dreams, even finding fantasies, rich and hilarious, that she is comfortable eking out to us along the way. Few people suffer from such self-awareness in their lives and realize, all too late, what has become of them for this omission. Horn can make no such claim --- she is more than aware of what's going on in her head and heart, and her attempts to bring them together will delight any reader.
Cut into tiny pieces, like episodes of a long-running TV show, WAITING FOR MY CATS TO DIE seems like a quick and facile read. But Horn's directness, her inability to lie to the reader, her funny turns of phrase, and that unavoidable obsession with the unknown, makes it a deeper, more fulfilling book than you might think. Beware --- you just might find yourself doing some thinking you've never quite done before, buoyed by the features of WAITING FOR MY CATS TO DIE. Stacy Horn calls it a "morbid memoir," but I think it's a bravely unique means of accounting for the adventures and failures and expectations of a life being lived every day in full splendor.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on February 5, 2002
Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Morbid Memoir