Published: 30th June 2017
Publisher: Ion Publishers LLC
Author: Pat Patterson
Dining and Driving With Cats – Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life’s hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse’s detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.
They, along with the cats, dine frequently during a sometimes hilarious but always romantic auto trip across the South. As the miles flip the odometer, we are given insight into how this unusual relationship between the couple came to be, evolved, and gradually, at the end revealed in a secret you didn’t see coming. What, you say? There is a twist in a dining dialogue? Yes! And you’ll just have to read it for yourself–no spoilers here. Dialogue is so natural between the two; you’ll swear he recorded the entire trip. Alice is revealed in the first pages as a real life brainy, successful business woman enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her. She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy.
You might also say the book is unusual in that it totally engages the reader from the first page without a hint of violence, bloodshed, graphic sex, drugs or language. The author’s main character (besides the two cats) Alice, does say “you bastards” once. Alice is supremely self-confident and comfortable in her own skin as we learn early on when she promises the author a vehicle of his dreams if he will join her in a multi-state road trip from Mexico across the South and help wrangle two cats into restaurants, diners, cafes and hotels. He expects to find a Suburban or maybe an Escalade in the drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact – a Honda Fit. She says it’s “flexible”. They drive – Scott La. & the Boudin War. They dine – New Orleans at Gautreau’s, Clancy’s, and Herbsaint. They laugh – the Carousel Bar. They cry – tragic death. If you come along on this moveable feast you will find yourself caught up in a romantic love story that involves the Other Woman and a secret that Alice cannot keep. You will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. Along the way you will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, discover cat smuggling, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept the author’s ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.
Goes down as another off my 2018 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book with action and adventure in it. Well for the cats anyway! Pat and Alice are on a road trip with a difference. Namely by having two extra travel companions in the form of their cats Munchie and Tuffy. Two laid back girls who can get themselves into quite a pickle at times. They are just a couple of house cats getting ready for a whirlwind adventure.
I liked the quotes at the beginning because they are so true. British author Sir Terry Pratchett “In ancient times, cats were treated as gods; they have not forgotten this.” And another from unidentified person “Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.” Love it and every cat owner will understand it too. We are their staff/servants to pander to them whenever the need arises.
So this is a journey book as well as trips down memory lane for Pat and Alice. Needing a trip of some kind as feeling a bit antsy at home in San Miguel they decide to go on a road trip. The plan is to make their way to see their new grandchild but the long route rather than a flying visit. For the plan of action they need a route, places to see and eat and a car the handle their entire load, including two people and two cats. A fun way to decide on places to stop at, mainly food related, was when they put up their plan ‘Dining and Driving with cats’ in the local paper to see if they could get some suggestions. I’d say a few hundred is a good place to start. So Alice was to look after the food and sleeping part and Pat to look after the route and driving. With plan sorted its off they go.
The antics that the cats get into while on route will have you chuckling along with them. Especially if you own cats, as you will constantly be saying, “yes mine has done that too!” Well maybe not everything, as Tuffy gets a little too happy at one point when ingesting something she shouldn’t have. Panicked for a moment there, then soon went into a fit of giggles. You’ll know the part when you get to it. The trick they have to get in and out of the car without said cats escaping was amusing. Not so sure I would have let mine roam around in the back while driving but they seemed to behave most of the time. Was funny to read about them in new hotel rooms, claiming the bed right away. Whether you had room to get in as well was not really their concern. I have heard of dog-friendly restaurants but cats, now that was something new. Would be a bit strange to suddenly hear a cat meow loudly while eating. You’d just be thinking where the hell did that come from.
Now cat treasures aside you get interesting facts about the places they saw while on the trip as well as lists and recipes of some of the food ordered. You might not want to read while hungry as might make you want to get a snack. All making this a fun, light, quirky read that will have you wondering what will happen next on this cat inspired road trip – can only go places where they are welcome. You might want to try taking your cat to a restaurant near you to see how they’d cope. As long as mine got some food he might be ok but would much prefer to chill out at home – well they do did their catnaps!
4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.