Cat Brushingby Jane Campbell
A rousing and original debut story collection that probes the erotic, emotional, and intellectual lives of elder women, Cat Brushing will be published in the author’s 80th year
Cat Brushing, the provocative debut by Jane Campbell, vigorously explores the sensual worlds of thirteen older women, unearthing their passions, libidinal appetites, integrity, and sense of self as they fight against prevalent misconceptions and stereotypes of the aging.
Written in spikey, incisive prose, this alluring cast of characters overcomes the notion that elder women’s behavior must be in some way monitored and controlled. Susan falls in love with her beautiful young caregiver Miffy, and embarks on an intense emotional relationship within the confines of her nursing home. Linda seeks out her former lover, Malik, despite having left him years ago to return to her settled marriage to Bill. Daisy, who, by a curious stroke of fate, finds herself at the funeral of her former boyfriend, Tim, relives their early life together, his betrayal of her and the anguish of that time. Martha, mourning her small dog whom she believes has been killed by the home care staff, works out how to manage a robot designed to record her behavior, and get her revenge. And the narrator of the title story, “Cat Brushing,” communes with her elegant, soft Siamese, reflecting on the sexual pleasures of her past.
The timeless wisdom and dark wit of debut writer Jane Campbell inspires and challenges, shocks and comforts as she examines the inner lives of women who fight to lead the rest of their lives on their own terms.
“An exploration of libido, passions, and how older women maintain their sense of self as they fight against stereotypes of what it means to be an older woman.”—Toronto Star, Best Books of Summer 2022
“Campbell debuts at 80 with an accomplished collection centering the emotional and psychological lives of the elderly, delivering astute observations and sharp critiques, and restoring agency to characters who are routinely robbed of it… Ripe with sensuality, this is full of vivid portraits.”—Publishers Weekly
“Octogenarian Jane Campbell may be ‘new’ to the publishing industry, but her first book, Cat Brushing, is refreshingly accomplished. The 13 exquisitely drawn short stories in the collection are woven with wit and bold enlightenment. Each meticulously crafted gem focuses on the lives of aging women who grapple with their shrinking places in the world while coming to terms with feelings and failings, choices and losses… Aspects of regret, mourning, fantasies and lost love infuse these eloquently rendered, skillfully plotted stories that pack a wallop… In Campbell’s wholly original, late-in-life stories, the limitations compelled by age become surprising sources of wisdom and empowered liberation.”—Shelf Awareness
“Stepping into these stories by Jane Campbell feels like opening a door back into the world. The thrust of life, of longing and regret, of contempt and forgiveness, it’s all here in such vivid, delicious phrasing. She reads like Eudora Welty’s wicked British cousin, a lot of fun.”—John Freeman, editor of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story
“‘…Anything between my legs is welcome these days,’ says the narrator with a warm cat on her lap in the title story of Jane Campbell’s terrific debut fiction Cat Brushing. In thirteen revivifying stories, thirteen candid, empathic portraits of aging women for whom desire yet smolders, Campbell proves aging is a complex sport. Some mental agility is required, some wit and wisdom. Befuddlement and remorse are a part of play, too, but the stories offer the solace of shared experience and company.”—Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood
“Cat Brushing is a fierce and fascinating debut. I loved these women who have taken off their gloves to fight life with their bare hands.”—Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers
“Jane Campbell is a wonder! Much will be made of the fact that the author is publishing her debut at the age of eighty, and that she is writing about the often transgressive sexual lives of older women. But it’s her clear-eyed vision, rendered in prose as crisp as bone china, that had me rapt. This book flings open a heretofore shuttered window, giving us an invigoratingly fresh and absolutely essential view of the psychology and emotions and appetites of aging women. Jane Campbell, where have you been? We’ve needed you for a very, very long time.”—Jamie Quatro, author of Fire Sermon
“I loved these fresh, wry, strange stories; by turns moving and unnerving, they disturb expectations of the longings, loves and ambitions of older women.”—Megan Hunter, author of The Harpy
“Jane Campbell’s Cat Brushing is the debut of the decade, an eighty year old woman laying out the physical and spiritual struggle of life at its very end. I was haunted by these stories of older women falling, having strokes, dying—subjects often flattened into sentimentality—but in Campbell’s hands made both elegant and transgressive. We are striving creatures of intense desire, Campbell insists, until we are not.”—Darcey Steinke, author of Flash Count Diary
“I laughed out loud in joy and admiration so many times in this original, surprising book. These stories felt both deeply familiar to me and far too absent from many of our culture’s stories. Jane Campbell is a refreshing, compelling new voice.”—Kate Reed Petty, author of True Story