This is the simple but poignant story of Haee, a cat with a crooked tail who lives a comfortable and worry-free life with his loving family.
One day, curious Haee goes exploring in a black hole and gets lost. Haee is discovered by Tom and Jane. Tom and Jane take Haee home and give Haee everything he could possibly need or want. Though they appear to be a perfect couple living a perfect life filled with good jobs, exercise, organic food, sleep, a nice car and everything they need, Tom is secretly dissatisfied with the busy urban life and wishes for clean fresh air and Jane wishes she were a bird and could fly away and see the world.
Haee, in spite of his pampered life, treats and his part in making the house run smoothly, discovers that he, too, is missing something. So one day Haee decides to go play with the cats in the alley and make friends with Whie – the one cat that all the other cats ignore because of her big red nose. Haee enjoys being with Whie so much that he does not return to Tom and Jane.
The first in a trilogy, this story centers on the themes of need versus want, self-fulfillment and motivation. Author R.S. Vern introduces the concept of “Middlings” to the reader in the introduction, explaining that Middlings are those who appear to have it all, are independent, respect non-conformists and the environment but feel “apart from it all”. They also often ask themselves: “Are we not as happy as those who are much better off in this world?”
Haee, Tom and Jane are all Middlings who appear to have everything they could possibly need and want to be comfortable. But, as the evocative and enticingly detailed pen-line illustrations show, there is an underlying sense of dissatisfaction that grows in spite of all “needs” being met. Realizing this, Haee acts on his desires leaves the comfort of home in search of more satisfying life.
The ending comes somewhat abruptly, leaving a sense that the story is incomplete, however Vern does effectively brings to light the question about whether or not having it all is really the paradigm for the middle class working Tom and Jane, and whether Haee, or any other Middling, is really living more if they are less “comfortable”.
Vern’s story is engaging on many levels and the mostly-black-and-white illustrations add a contemporary and stylish elegance to the clean, crisp layout of the ebook that also features pop up text boxes when narrative is double clicked.
HAEE is a beautifully illustrated and thought-provoking modern-day allegory suitable for older children and grown-ups alike.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader.