Although biblical tales and religious history have been retold many times and in many forms, there are few depictions as unique and insightful as the books written by C.L. Francisco. Cat Born to the Purple is the 4th installment of the series, in which the lives of Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Paul, and other historical/ancient figures are shown through the eyes of cats. While the premise initially sounds strange, the concept works, evidenced by the praise for her earlier books.
In this most recent sequel, readers are introduced to Eliana, a young woman who has been brutally treated by her family, and nearly loses her life in the process. Through the wizened eyes of numerous cats in the book, as well as a young, playful kitten that eventually re-sparks Eliana’s passion for life, we see an ancient story with strangely modern reflections. Yeshua’s cat, Mari, makes an appearance in other books in the series as well, and has a thoroughly developed personality, as well as a fiercely smart tongue as a narrator.
Seeing significant historical events and understanding moral and religious quandaries through a fresh perspective is important for society, and this book provides that in a lighthearted and entertaining way. The story of Eliana, and what she is forced to go through, may not be as powerful in the form of historical fiction, or even biblical accounts. However, by stepping one degree of separation further – across the species boundary – all of the underlying messages and intentions of the story are somehow enhanced.
When Eliana, Mari and Yeshua move to Acco, and come into contact with some of the poisoned and sinful influences that are present in the city, it is clear that something must be done. Yeshua, the unusually human, yet divine son of Earth, plays a major role in these books, as the titles might imply, and functions as a passionate and profoundly wise character; Francisco does a wonderful job humanizing this powerful individual.
Although the unique premise and the godly figures make this book stand out, it is the author’s creation of Eliana that makes the story truly great. She is an incredibly strong woman that perseveres through so much, and provides inspiration to readers of any kind – young, old, religious or not. She is a fighter, but doesn’t let the horrors or troubles of the world break her. The denouement of the book certainly comes as a surprise, and the story gets dark in certain moments, but that only sets up the reader for an even more satisfying finish. As with the whole story, the book itself ensures some pain and effort for readers before salvation.
The writing is well-edited and concise, and the pacing is consistent. The prose is almost poetic in many sections, and the leisurely style of some passages seems like a mirror for the lounging, philosophical musings of Mari. Francisco has struck on something very interesting with this series, and this book, in particular. Honesty, morality, religion and history all wrapped up in the same book don’t come around all that often, and certainly not in such an original, entertaining package.