Chosen as one of Indie Reader’s Best of 2015!
IR Verdict: THE CATS OF REKEM is an intriguing and beautifully written consideration of the life of Jesus and the meaning of his teachings, offered from a novel perspective.
“The writing is poetic and lush, with moments of tender emotion, spiritual ecstasy and sorrow, enlivened by touches of humor, like Lion facing down a cat-hating Lazarus, or the escape of Paul of Tarsus through the sewers of Damascus.”
A family of cats and humans learn how to live by a new religion, after their lives are touched by Yeshua of Nazareth.
Mari is a cat, disciple and friend to Yeshua of Nazareth. As a boy, during his family’s flight from Herod’s wrath, Yeshua had been cared for by Tikos, a priestess of Rekem, and her husband Zaidan. When Tikos and Zaidan’s daughter Hinat is desperately ill, they seek out Yeshua’s miraculous healing powers. In healing Hinat, he brings her and her family, including the sacred temple cats who are their companions, into his growing family of disciples and followers, thereby changing all their lives forever. Told from the perspective of Zaidan’s cat, Lion of the Mountain, Hinat’s Queen’s Dragonfly, and Mari herself, this is the tale of how humans and cats alike found their lives transformed by Yeshua’s teachings, and how they survived the trials and spiritual tests that they faced after Yeshua’s death.
THE CATS OF REKEM continues the cat’s-eye view of Jesus’s life begun in Yeshua’s Cat. As in the first book, Francisco deftly paints a feline culture that interacts in rich and thoughtful ways with human society, while maintaining its own distinct and believably-cat like perspective. The writing is poetic and lush, with moments of tender emotion, spiritual ecstasy and sorrow, enlivened by touches of humor, like Lion facing down a cat-hating Lazarus, or the escape of Paul of Tarsus through the sewers of Damascus. Parts of the story will of course be familiar to most readers, but Francisco tells it from a different angle, with shadings and interpretations that give new and thought-provoking meaning to old tales. Readers may or may not agree with her interpretations, but they are carefully argued, lovingly presented, and deserve at least to stimulate thought, discussion and careful consideration.
THE CATS OF REKEM is an intriguing and beautifully written consideration of the life of Jesus and the meaning of his teachings, offered from a novel perspective.
“The Cats of Rekem, by C. L. Francisco, is a thoughtful story about Jesus and his followers told from a feline perspective.
This is the third book in the Yeshua’s Cats series and it opens with the characters from A Cat Out of Egypt twenty-five years later. In the Nabataean city of Rekem there’s religious and political discord. Tikos, Zaidan, their daughter Hinat, and their faithful cats are placed in a dangerous situation when Yeshua and Mari appear before and after the Resurrection. Yeshua makes a request: help save Paul of Tarsus. Can they and what will the consequences be if discovered?
The author should be praised for utilizing cats as the narrators. It’s a clever and magical way of presenting religious fiction in a way that won’t inflame diehard believers and nonbelievers. It helps the author step back into the shadows to let the cats tell the story, putting distance between preaching and focusing on the narrative. Lines such as, “This was human religion, nothing to do with me” and “I confess that the subtleties of human religion often escape me” help steer the story away from becoming an in your face account of Jesus. The novel highlights the growing power of his beliefs and followers in a relaxed and entertaining fashion, making this story accessible to animal lovers and open-minded people, no matter their religious background. The cats provide small doses of humor during tense moments and their insights about humans and their personal beliefs and struggles are enlightening.
The Cats of Rekem isn’t solely about religion. That’s at the heart of the story, of course, but just like in today’s world, religious beliefs and tension cannot be separated from many other factors. Francisco also includes political, societal, and economic forces that ruled over the communities and individuals during Jesus’ time. When all of these forces collided, individuals were caught up in the middle. Believers had to contend with economic threats and hardships. Many had to fear for their personal freedom and in some cases their lives.
The personal struggles of Hinat and Paul highlight what was really at stake during the time. Both try to reconcile Jesus and his One God to their own belief systems. Their inner turmoil, raw emotions, and self-doubt show just how transformative the events were and their impact on the individual level. Both had different backgrounds and beliefs, but their personal struggles were remarkably similar. This similarity helps demonstrate the universality of how religious doubt affects people from all walks of life and is a wonderful and powerful lesson today.
The Cats of Rekem is a fascinating interpretation of Jesus, his life, and how he impacted those around him. The author provides a well-balanced historical fiction story with a twist, which is neutralizing a potentially complicated and inflammatory novel by utilizing cats as the storytellers. Oddly, the feline perspective personalizes the stories of Hinat and Paul, making them sympathetic characters, while never putting them on a pedestal. A wonderful addition to historical fiction and would appeal to those curious about Jesus and his followers.” 4.5 stars
Midwest Book Review
From Midwest Book Review (Diane Donovan):
The third book in the ‘Yeshua’s Cats’ series is here, and it takes place years after the events of A Cat Out of Egypt – but that doesn’t mean that newcomers necessarily need prior familiarity with the others to easily enter the world of the latest The Cats of Rekem. All that’s required is a basic interest in animal fantasy writings, ancient Egypt, and early Christian history in order to appreciate the story of sentient cats who celebrate their heritage and observe the curious circumstances of humans.
Francisco’s opening lines reviews this heritage, neatly providing background for new readers (“Zaidan, master of caravans, grandfather of his people, and my chosen human, bore my sister’s body down from the cliffs with honor. I, Lion of the Mountain, led the way, as I had led him into the rocks to find her.”), while the first-person cat’s-eye perspective offers additional insights into relationships and flavors of the times: “I approved of my human and his mate. Regardless of their own distress, they rarely failed to act with dignity and restraint, as befitted the humans of Rekem’s sovereign male cat.”
It’s this viewpoint which presents events from the life of Jesus in a completely new light, and which makes this story a refreshingly unique departure from the usual approach to Jesus’ times: “Well, Dragon,” she repeated, as if tasting the word as she spoke, “yes, the son of Earth really lives, and yes, he was dead.” She paused to lick a paw and then spoke again, this time with a smile. “You remind me of myself when I first saw him yesterday. I couldn’t sit still either.”
As Wind on Water, Lion of the Mountain, and others tell of their experiences, readers bask in the chill of the desert night, the blossoming of faith, the intrusion and questions of death, and the physical, psychological and spiritual observations of animals who make their way in the world and who comment upon the fates of man and animal alike.
Throughout these observations, the feel of the times springs to life: “The sweet scent of water reached my nose long before we reached Damascus. Apparently the camels smelled it too: for almost a day before we arrived, the humans had to work to hold their beasts back, rather than urging them on. First the mountains rose over the rim of the desert, then the brown hills, and last the city walls.”
Brimming with flavor, startling in many of its cat viewpoints, and scintillatingly haunting in its perspective of Jesus’ world, The Cats of Rekem represents spiritual fantasy writing at its best, and is a highly recommended addition to a series that will delight Christian readers with a fondness for cats.
The dose of fantasy extrapolation takes Yeshua’s world in a different direction than most. Think ‘Narnia’ and Aslan, but with more emphasis on feline perspectives and the odd nature and pursuits of man and how each worship the One in different ways. Christian fantasy readers will find it a delightfully different adventure!