Domino is a story of anthropomorphic cats. Not cute cats from cartoons, who walk on hind legs and wear funny knit cat clothes. These are real animals, possessed of predator teeth and sharp claws, with instincts to match. We get to see through their eyes, hear the sounds only they can hear, experience the thrill of the hunt and the pleasure of rest in a cosy hideout. The author is clearly a cat lover who has spent time observing the animals.
And yet, at its essence, this is a profoundly human tale. So human, in fact, that some readers might be able to predict nearly every beat of the story. Normally, calling a plot "predictable" is a derogatory statement. Authors are forever outdoing each other trying to come up with the Next Big Twist, forgetting that there is something much more important they could provide to the reader instead.
Insight. Food for thought. A different perspective on the familiar. Domino provides all of it an more.
The basic plotline of a stranger entering a well-established community and causing first excitement, then upheaval, then destruction is nothing new. Neither is the story of those who try to fight the hostile forces and protect their families, friends and values to the best of their abilities. Nor are the side subplots about the challenges and heartbreaks that come with becoming a parent. However, being told exclusively through the eyes of Domino, a proud, capable and intelligent barn cat, the story can reach deeper, on a more visceral level, and cover some themes and issues that we might be too uncomfortable to face if told in a more straightforward manner. I am almost reminded of Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, confessing that he inserted the made-up Nadsat slang into some of the scenes because writing them out in plain English would have been intolerable. Domino is not quite as violent and disturbing, but in spite of being an animal fable, it is serious, earnest, and at times harsh. The violence is both haunting and effective. This is definitely not a book for young children.
The plotting is meticulously done, with all the threads coming together in the end for a conclusion that is, as one of my old reviewer friends used to say, both surprising and inevitable. The Epilogue section is pure, uplifting beauty and negates much of the darkness present in the main body of the story. All in all, a very special tale that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
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