A book review on The Unconventional Life of Haee, 2nd Book from trilogy series “Haee and the other middlings”

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.

The Unconventional Life of Haee, Tuesday, September 18, 2012
By Lynette Koh, Senior Writer, ilovebooks.com

To buy the book or download a sample chapter, please go to http://www.ilovebooks.com/ebooks/home/D1ABC7BD-D378-4CD7-AE59-57015B118FAF/The_unconventional_life_of_Haee .

A bittersweet book review on “Haee The cat with a crooked tail”

Book review from ilovebooks.com

What does it mean to be “middling”? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as being of “middle, medium, or moderate size, degree, or quality”. In other words, average. In this charming illustrated book for children and adults, local author R.S. Vern explores the middling life through the eyes of Haee, a cat which is pretty ordinary save for its unusually long and crooked tail.

The first installment in a planned trilogy, the story sees Haee leaving his comfy home to explore the world. After losing his way, he is adopted by Tom Stuck and Jane Fruss, a very ordinary sort of couple. Haee gets used to leading a routine life with his new owners, but eventually gets bored and heads for the streets, where he befriends the alley cats, including Whie, a cat with an unnaturally big nose.

Bittersweet and seemingly simple, this story embodies the ambivalence the author feels about an average, middle-class existence – possibly mundane, yes, but reassuring in its certainties and not without its own joys.

So, on one hand, you have Tom and Jane, a middling couple who always “wake up early for work, go for evening jogs and sleep early at night”. They do have secret dreams: Organic food-loving Tom fantasises about moving away from the city, while Jane wishes she could fly away and see the world. However, they continue going about their routine lives, never acting on these inner desires.

On the other hand, there are also moments in the book where the author hints at the possibility that the things which prevent us from making major life changes may actually be much less frightening than we think.

Early in the story, for example, Haee gets lost after he enters a black hole he comes upon after leaving home. “Alone and terribly frightened”, he regrets his earlier curiosity and swears never to “act so foolishly and recklessly again”.  At this moment, he is petrified when he sees “a pair of huge claws coming at him” in the darkness, but the claws turn out to be the (skinny) hands of Tom Stuck, who rescues Haee from the black hole.

By making it apparent to the reader that the things which frightened Haee so greatly are actually pretty harmless, Vern slips in an important point: Perhaps it isn’t that scary or difficult to create a life less ordinary.

Haee: The Cat with a Crooked Tail, Wednesday, August 08, 2012
By Lynette Koh, Senior Writer, Mediacorp Pte Ltd http://www.ilovebooks.com