In this sentimental, didactic fable, Masson imagines how the lone nonsocial domesticated animal came to share hearth and home.
Billi, an Asian leopard cat, lives in a mango forest in ancient India. He enjoys his independence, but he feels pangs of loneliness and curiosity about the “two-foots.” He learns their languages - Hindi, Malayam and Sanskrit - and he can “see the appeal of south India's three major religions.”
Billi embarks on a quest to learn more about humans by discovering what their animals think of them. A water buffalo mourns being underappreciated; a parrot bemoans his cage; a mongoose tells a chilling story about human ingratitude. Humans worship you, Billi says to a cow. “Oh, great,” the cow says. “That and five rupees will get you a chapati.”
Nine months of travel and no truly good word for humans leaves Billi undeterred, and, back home, he seeks out a young girl he'd often watched. It's not easy proving his good intentions or trying to be “the only animal to have a mutually satisfying relationship with humans.” But Billi makes it happen in a story that's heartwarming but only for the passionate aelurophile.
“Fascinating . . . A book full of uncommon insight.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“An affectionate, completely engaging book full of new insights into the emotional lives of cats. Of course, all cats are interesting, but Masson's five felines seem particularly so - and you don't need to be a cat lover to enjoy them via these pages.”
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs