Too often when reading, we skim over the line breaks, the white spaces on the page, that signal a change of time and place. With the structure of her memoir, Joyce Carol Oates gracefully reminds us that life occurs within these voids. What came to pass in that awful space between the early morning of 9/11, when her cat Christabel died, and nine days later, when she adopted a “three-month-old gray-marbled kitten”? As witnesses to history, we implicitly know that life has been utterly changed, that life in the second entry can only resemble life in the first.
Yet the cats help us make sense of tragedy. One cat died. Another is rescued. In reading demarcated fragments of time, we experience mystery and random disorders that are so difficult to comprehend. Oates stitches threads that close the gaps and reveal patterns.