BOOKS: Ophelia’s Winter
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2001:
Ophelia’s Winter, by Sarah Ann Hill
1st Books Library (2511 West 3rd Street, Suite #1, Bloomington, IN 47404), 2000.
Sarah Ann Hill, the last page of Ophelia’s Winter explains,
was actually the name of author Marilyn Sansom’s great grandmother,
“a storyteller back in the 1800s,” who was wife of the first forest
ranger in West Virginia.
All we know of the author is that her actual first name is
Marilyn, she is a financial professional, she thanks ANIMAL PEOPLE
for research help that we barely remember giving, and she wrote this
useful yet hard-to-classify book after adopting a cat called Ophelia
whose history turned out to be all too typical of that of pets who
are left behind without appropriate provisions in their owners’ wills.
Ophelia’s Winter is in part the novelized story of Ophelia’s
passage from the doting Miss Janet to the overwhelmed Miss Neighborly
to the abusive Bagboy, including two brief stays at shelters where
she narrowly escaped lethal injection.
Ophelia’s Winter is also a sermon to people who love their
pets about the hows, whys, and wherefores of estate planning with
realistic consideration for the animals, including many anecdotes
about other animals who encountered variations of Ophelia’s plight.
One is Simon, another cat who Marilyn rescued.
Finally, Ophelia’s Winter is a work of literary criticism,
concluding with a long belated analysis and appreciation of Rhubarb,
the 1946 novel by humorist H. Allen Smith that was the first known
treatise on the topic of bereaved animals. Though Smith allowed
legal justice to take a few unlikely twists on his way to a happy
ending for the cat Rhubarb, who had inherited the world champion New
York Loons baseball team, his plot seemed to accurately anticipate
the obstacles that wills attempting to provide for animals have all
too often encountered.