Grief, illness, loss – how an award-winning writer got through it all

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Helen Brown lost her nine-year-old son, battled breast cancer and, more recently, found herself lost in her life.

But the former Taranaki woman got through hard times with the help of cats and is now a New York Times best-selling author with 10 books to her credit.

She has just published her third memoir, Bono, about the dying cat that got her through her “two-third life crisis”, and is back in her home town for a book launch on Wednesday night.


“I’d had 22 years of marriage, kids had left home, I was getting over breast cancer and I felt at a loss really,” says Brown.

Her outfit of a bright blue shirt dotted with smiling faces, pale pink bomber jacket and sparkling cactus-cum heart earings, reveals no trace of the sadness she battled.

She says that under her publisher’s guidance she packed up her things and moved to New York for a time.

But there was a catch – when she got to the Big Apple she had to foster a dying cat, Bono.

“I learnt a lot from him because, like me, he was in a two-third life crisis.

“He approached every day with curiosity, he had no fear and wouldn’t worry about the future.

“I could see through him what life was really about.”

Brown says she was never a cat person – the closest she came to a pet’s company was when wild felines housed themselves under her childhood home.

That was until she ended up with Cleo – the cat that inspired, and gave its name to, the first of Brown’s memoirs based around felines.

“It was a revelation to me actually, to see how a fluffy little kitten could help heal.

“Cleo was about recovering from grief – I lost my son Sam in 1983. He was nine and run over,” says Brown, who has three surviving children and two granddaughters.

Her second book, After Cleo, Came Jonah, was about the cat she had during her battle with breast cancer.

Brown got into writing as a journalist, following in the footsteps of her mother, who worked for the Hāwera Star during the war.

The majority of Brown’s books are collections of columns from various publications.

Today the Melbourne-based author is touring New Zealand for the release of Bono.

As for her two-third life crisis phase?

“I’ve never felt better, I love it, this is the best phase of life – it’s liberating.”

*Bono is being launched at Poppies Bookshop, King St, New Plymouth, at 6pm on Wednesday, October 24. Tickets are available from Poppies.


Original Article From Stuff


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