How does one leave a middling – that is, average – life behind? And what does an unconventional existence look like?
In the second installment of a three-part series, local author R.S. Vern explores these questions and continues the story of Haee, a cat which is pretty average in every way, save for his exceptionally long tail. The first book in this illustrated series, Haee: The Cat with a Crooked Tail, saw the titular feline leaving behind a comfortable and routine life with his owners, Tom and Jane, to experience life on the streets.
Like the first book, The Unconventional Life of Haee features appealing illustrations which are whimsical but tempered with a dash of quirky, Edward Gorey-style grimness. As the story opens, Haee’s explorations have taken him to the back alley behind the neighbourhood. Here, he befriends a motley crew of cats, including Whie, who is ostracised by the others because of her “unusually big red nose”.
Unlike the others, Haee is attracted to Whie, who he finds “really special and interesting”, and not just because of her oversize schnoz. For starters, the latter is vegetarian – her way of “saving the world and making it a better and more harmonious place to live in”.
Whie’s “queer eating habit” befuddles all the other cats, except Haee. (It’s easy to see the parallel to the human world here: As a once-vegetarian, I can honestly say that few things perplex omnivores more than someone who won’t eat anything which once had a pulse.) Fascinated, Haee learns to eat leftover pizza discarded in the alley instead of the usual roaches and rats. He even goes so far as to implement a set of rules forbidding the alley cats from eating any living creature.
As with many noble New Year’s resolutions and good intentions, things go according to plan for a while. However, it doesn’t take too long before the cats tire of their new lifestyles and revert to their old, roach-hunting ways. Disillusioned, Haee decides to move on without Whie, who is perfectly “comfortable with her life” in the alley.
Ending on an inconclusive note, this book sets the stage for book three, where we’ll (hopefully) find out the answers to questions such as: Will Haee return to a safe and comfortable life with Tom and Jane? Will he see Whie again? And will he ever find the different life he is looking for? Then again, as the author notes, perhaps life is not about achieving that perfect ending, but “having that extraordinary journey”, where dreaming and searching never stops.
By Lynette Koh, Senior Writer, ilovebooks.com