Cat on a Leash

by Elizabeth Gundy

Viking, $8.95

The cat of the title is Brenda James— wife, mother, a thoroughly domesticated animal—who is bickering her way through Europe with her husband. Brenda and Luke, a publisher, are ostensibly on a business trip visiting his European authors, though what they are actually doing is making a pilgrim’s progress through the land of matrimony, a grand tour of everything that is wrong with modern marriage. All the husbands among their acquaintances are egotistical at best, unfaithful and abusive at worst. The wives are variously submissive, bovine, masochistic. The Jameses’ marriage begins to crumble under the strain of comparison.
In London, Brenda, who feels prematurely middle-aged at thirty-four, takes up with an old flame in an attempt to relive a bit of her youth. When she confesses to Luke, he leaves her with nothing but a ticket home to an empty house. Alone for the first time in her adult life, Brenda withdraws to an island off the Canadian coast to repossess her sanity and discover herself. Her efforts lead her to what, in this era of liberation and self-actualization, can pass for a happy ending.
Cat on a Leash is the smooth and stylish tale of a woman’s belated identity crisis. Though this is a formula that has lately become overfamiliar, a staple of movies and television as well as of books, Elizabeth Gundy brings it to life with intelligence and a welcome sense of humor.