Review of 'A Gift from Bob'

A Gift from Bob by James Bowen

a_gift_from_bob.jpg This autobiographical book by James Bowen tells the troubles he faced leading up to a particular Christmas. Bowen grew up in difficult circumstances and ended up on the streets of London then falling into drug addiction. He was “rescued”, in part, by a fiercely independent ginger cat he called “Bob” that decided to stay with Bowen and, while helping him busk (“look at the cute cat!”), helped him to come to terms with his troubles and pull himself out of the gutter. A the very least Bob was able to help him make a living in selling their story to others (a story retold in now a series of books “A Street Cat Named Bob”, “The World According to Bob”, “Bob: No Ordinary Cat”, etc, etc). In “A Gift from Bob” Bowen is living in a flat with Belle, a friend from the street, and now clean from addiction has experienced a certain amount of success as an author but still is on the street struggling to scrape enough money together for the holidays but in doing so sees the sadness, despite the comparative wealth, of those giving his money so resolves to show them how they have helped him through the years…

This is the first of the “Bob” books I have read with other readers, I am informed, telling me the stories do end up being slightly repetitive (it is only so often you can tell the same story with slightly different words…). “A Gift from Bob” is a pleasant and uplifting though simply told story of a man turning his life around and coming to be happy with what he has become (with copious amounts of “Bob” thrown in). The insights into what life is really like on the streets selling the “Big Issue” are amazing and humbling often calling into question what many might think of those they see on the street corners asking for money. This is, however, a story of hope and endurance that particularly resonates during the Christmas period.

Do not expect any answers or even any in-depth analysis into the problem of homelessness, but do expect a heartwarming story of someone who has been there and managed to pull himself out of the gutter, told simply and frankly. Some might say that it is here that Bowen has missed a trick but likely a treatise on the subject would likely only alienate readers so rather telling the story in his own words and from the heart we are much more engaged – He is just like anyone else with the same hopes and dreams.

A must read for anyone who has spared a thought for those they walk by on their way to work every day. Spend a few hours with Bowen and his cat, Bob…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2018-11-04

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Hodder & Sloughton

Publication Date: 2014

ISBN: 9781473605787