Cat Born to the Purple chosen as one of IR’s Best of 2016!
CAT BORN TO THE PURPLE
Genre: Religious/Historical Fiction
Author: C. L. Francisco
Rating: 5 stars
A young cat must help her human partner, the woman saved from stoning by Yeshua ben Yosef, find healing and purpose in life.
When Yeshua ben Yosef saved Eliana from death by stoning, he brought her to the house of his friend Eli, where she could be cared for. But finding that she had lost her memory, and that her in-laws were hunting for her in order to have her killed, he takes her to the Gentile city of Acco, apprenticing her to a kindly textile merchant. There, she finds joy and fulfilling work as a skilled weaver, as well as a feral female kitten named Purple Gleaming in Shadow, who becomes her friend and companion. But can Purple, with Yeshua’s guidance, help Eliana overcome the grief and fear of her past, and open her heart to love, both human love and the love of the One?
This is the fourth volume of the Yeshua’s Cats series, each featuring a different cat whose life intersects with that of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus of Nazareth). It starts out narrated by Mari/Wind on Water, Yeshua’s companion, but moves seamlessly to Purple’s point of view as she comes more and more deeply into the tale. Like the others, it is rich in poetic description and vivid language, bringing the streets of Roman-occupied Acco to life, from the stinks of the murex dye vats and the deep clotted-blood color of the purple dye to the ruined beauty of an abandoned temple.
The religious aspect of the story is somewhat unconventional, but full of warmth and deep loving-kindness, and Francisco’s conception of Yeshua shines with the charisma and compassion that explain plausibly why people would willingly drop everything and follow him. Textile work is a common thread (pun intended) through this novel, and everything from the cruelty of the murex-harvesting and dyeing process to the intricacy of the weaving patterns finds deeper meaning in the story and the theology. Purple is an appealing narrator, with the innocence of kittenhood and a charming delight in yarn and weaving. Her ability to comment on the human culture and thought processes from outside, with a recognizable-yet-alien felinoid point of view, adds a valuable perspective to the novel.
CAT BORN TO THE PURPLE is a poetic tale with a flair for description and a welcoming, hopeful, and loving spiritual heart. ★★★★★
“Although biblical tales and religious history have been retold many times and in many forms, there are few depictions as unique and insightful as the books written by C.L. Francisco. Cat Born to the Purple is the 4th installment of the series, in which the lives of Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Paul and other historical/ancient figures are shown through the eyes of cats. While the premise initially sounds strange, the concept works, evidenced by the praise for her earlier books.
In this most recent sequel, readers are introduced to Eliana, a young woman who has been brutally treated by her family, and nearly loses her life in the process. Through the wizened eyes of numerous cats in the book, as well as a young, playful kitten that eventually re-sparks Eliana’s passion for life, we see an ancient story with strangely modern reflections. Yeshua’s cat, Mari, makes an appearance in other books in the series as well, and has a thoroughly developed personality, as well as a fiercely smart tongue as a narrator.
Seeing significant historical events and understanding moral and religious quandaries through a fresh perspective is important for society, and this book provides that in a light-hearted and entertaining way. The story of Eliana, and what she is forced to go through, may not be as powerful in the form of historical fiction, or even biblical accounts. However, by stepping one degree of separation further – across the species boundary – all of the underlying messages and intentions of the story are somehow enhanced.
When Eliana, Mari and Yeshua move to Acco, and come into contact with some of the poisoned and sinful influences that are present in the city, it is clear that something must be done. Yeshua, the unusually human, yet divine son of Earth, plays a major role in these books, as the titles might imply, and functions as a passionate and profoundly wise character; Francisco does a wonderful job humanizing this powerful individual.
Although the unique premise and the godly figures make this book stand out, it is the author’s creation of Eliana that makes the story truly great. She is an incredibly strong woman that perseveres through so much, and provides inspiration to readers of any kind – young, old, religious or not. She is a fighter, but doesn’t let the horrors or troubles of the world break her. The denouement of the book certainly comes as a surprise, and the story gets dark in certain moments, but that only sets up the reader for an even more satisfying finish. As with the whole story, the book itself ensures some pain and effort for readers before salvation.
The writing is well-edited and concise, and the pacing is consistent. The prose is almost poetic in many sections, and the leisurely style of some passages seems like a mirror for the lounging, philosophical musings of Mari. Francisco has struck on something very interesting with this series, and this book, in particular. Honesty, morality, religion and history all wrapped up in the same book doesn’t come around all that often, and certainly not in such an original, entertaining package.” 5 Stars ★★★★★
Midwest Book Review
Cat Born to the Purple is Book 4 in the Christian historical fantasy series ‘Yeshua’s Cats’, which is set in biblical times and follows the adventures of a wise cat who “…once traveled with Yeshua ben Yosef, the human known among cats as He Who Brings Life to the Earth, beloved of the One.”
The cat narrators hold a noble cat lineage, a gift for storytelling, and a cat’s curiosity about the human world that leads to having a paw (or a cat’s-eye view) in virtually everything that surrounds Yeshua ben Yosef, bringing events alive from a different perspective. This viewpoint is not your typical collection of retellings of legend, but represents a truly unique ‘voice’ that comments on decisions and interactions between spiritual and human forces:
Later that evening, Ben Adamah told me that Eliana just needed time, that once she realized her own strength, the memories would return. Until then, the One would hold them for her in a small pouch spun of spider’s silk. I think he might have been making up that last part.
But he knew that I found Eliana’s lapse disturbing. She’d mislaid a chunk of her life, a part of who she was. What if she never got it back? Would her mind be pocked with empty holes where memories used to be? More than a few times while we were in Cana, I dreamed of walking through a wilderness riddled with black pits echoing with nothingness, waiting to swallow me up if I missed a step.
Even cats have nightmares.
Purple successfully captures not only the social and political nuances of early times, but places them in a different context as a woman recovers from being stoned and interacts with cats and humans destined to form the nexus of Christianity.
It’s rare to see a Christian story that remains attentive to Biblical history and gospel while providing a different, compelling set of insights on the words, actions, and choices of major Biblical figures as they impact human and cat’s lives alike.
From a kitten named Purple, who is determined to tear things apart to see how threads fit together, to the awe-inspiring “son of Earth,” with his power to heal and help thwart the evil forces of his times, dialogue is powerful and interactions enlighten readers with engrossing visions, questions, and encounters:
“Who are you, that healing burns in your hands like light, and power flows through you like the ocean tides?” Aqhat pursued. “You hold the lives of the goddess’ sacred cats in your hands, and bend their wills to your own. Who are you, that you can take the crippling weight of years away and restore a blind woman’s sight? This I would know, Rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef.”
…“I am who I am, my friend,” he replied. “I am who you see. I am my father’s son, and I come to offer your suffering world words of healing and love, calling them to turn again, and remember—like your cats, Aqhat—to remember that they are the beloved children of the One who created them, and that they are neither lost nor alone.”
Too many Christian historical novels are dry presentations, but Cat Born to the Purple‘s language and approach are so original and unexpected that the events of its times, even those well known by Christian readers, are eloquently presented with new twists and always with a cat’s-eye take on matters.
Subtitles (“Cat tales and purple snails” and “Purple Gleaming in Shadow speaks”) keep themes in perspective and eliminate confusion as they shift from cat contemplations, story events, and between different feline narrators. Poetic language, questions of healing, control, power, choice, and spiritual insights all contribute to one of the most powerful accounts of Biblical times in Christian literature.
It’s rare to find the fourth book of the series just as gripping a read as its predecessors, and equally extraordinary to find such an addition both a stand-alone achievement and an impressive expansion of themes presented in prior books. The cat’s involved yet observational position is exquisitely done and is the perfect device for exploring the strange world of humans and the guiding lights that lead them.
All faiths will find this story hard to put down: it’s the language of Cat Born to the Purple, which seeps into one’s mind and enlivens both the narrative and its underlying spiritual, ethical, and moral questions, as they delve into basic issues of mercy, justice, and belief:
The son of Earth looked long and steadily at Chariton’s desperate face. “The only sacrifice the One asks of his children is the love of their hearts, freely and humbly given, Chariton. Can you offer that?”
“How can I love what I have never known, Lord?”
“Do you love the golden light on the mountain peaks at evening, Chariton? Their soft blush at morning? Does your memory float on fragile wings of delight at the sharp scent of mountain pines? Does your heart reach out to the silver flash of fish as they swim in the waters of your bay? Is the warm touch of a new-shorn sheep’s flank a blessing to your soul? When you look into Aeliana’s eyes, do untold wonders stir there? Trust me, my friend, you know the One, for hers is the vision that brought all these things to birth.“