- Vivie's Secret by Terry Lee Caruthers
Caruthers, Terry Lee Vivie's Secret. Black Rose Writing, 2020 [210p] Paper ed. ISBN 9781684335275 $9.99 Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 9-12
It's 1956 in Budapest, Hungary, and twelve-year-old Vivie and her family must flee from the encroaching Soviet regime to an Austrian refugee camp. Leaving her beloved cat behind is only the first of many problems for Vivie; her family must accept the help of strangers who may betray them at any provocation, and if the physical toll won't destroy them, the mental toll will. As Vivie loses her mother (to an illness), her sister (to mental trauma), and her father (when he gives her up to a wealthy American couple), cats are the only constant in her life, popping up wherever she goes and providing comfort, love, and hope. A framing narrative makes clear that Vivie goes on to do great things, getting doctorates and mastering the art of trap-neuter-release for stray cats that saves their lives. Vivie's story is wrought with emotion, and the book is best suited for older readers than its youthful cover suggests: Caruthers doesn't shy from brutal, heart-wrenching details, as in one particularly gruesome scene where young Vivie holds her hands over her younger sister's ears as her mother is raped by immigrant-hating men. Though the ending skips around confusingly for a bit to include Vivie's later achievements and eventual death, the book ultimately shares the story of a powerful woman with a passion for cats who overcame the worst of what the world has to offer and provided something kind and nurturing in return. An author's note briefly describes the real Vivie's life, and a references list provides further resources for the 1956 Uprising and the TNR movement.