‘Some say your previous cat chooses your new feline. If so, what in cat heaven’s name was our beloved Cleo thinking when she sent us a crazy cat like Jonah?

Cleo by Helen Brown, international bestseller

Helen Brown’s first book, CLEO, was an international bestseller – a film is underway

Jonah exploded into our family’s life not long after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. He bounced into the household with great energy and charm, and proved to be a wonderful nurse and healer in his own right. His arrival coincided with my recovery from a mastectomy in the midst of finalising my book about Cleo, not to mention preparations for the wedding of my son, Rob, to the girl of his dreams. Oh, and I was also struggling with my eldest daughter Lydia’s determination to embark on a spiritual life.

So many strong-minded women have headstrong daughters, but this wasn’t supposed to extend to their cats! Lydia’s craving to become a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka was matched by Jonah’s yearning to be an outdoor cat in a decidedly indoor cat neighbourhood. So while attempting to deal with my own mortality and help arrange the wedding, Lydia took off for war-torn Sri Lanka and Jonah fled down the street…’

* please note that this was first published as CATS & DAUGHTERS.

Helen Brown (author of Cleo and After Cleo) and Dalai Lama

Helen was six months pregnant with Katharine when she interviewed the Dalai Lama in 1992. Here he is blessing them both – one of the most unforgettable moments of Helen’s life.



Helen Brown writes with honesty and humour about the push and pull of family life, its serious setbacks and life-changing events. She also learns that sometimes the best thing a strong mother and cat slave can do is step back, have faith in those she loves and be grateful nothing’s perfect.


A must read

The Lady


Helen Brown, Cleo, Jonah

Helen Brown and Jonah. Photo courtesy of James Braund.


Helen Brown was born and raised in New Zealand, where she worked as a columnist, TV presenter and scriptwriter. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her family (and Jonah!).

Find out more about Helen on her website, catch up with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.



Catch Helen below in the documentary, ‘Plus fort que la mort’ (roughly translated as ‘stronger than death’), made for the hugely popular French television programme, 30 millions d’amis



Helen talks about CLEO and AFTER CLEO CAME JONAH on the Australian talk show, ‘The Circle’.



Click on the images below to read Helen Brown’s profile (featuring Cleo & Jonah)  in Next magazine




Click to read an extract of AFTER CLEO CAME JONAH in The Australian



35 responses to “AFTER CLEO CAME JONAH – Helen Brown”

  1. Connie Colvin says:

    I just finished Cleo last night, stayed up all night and it was a great book. Cleo was such a special cat. It was great to see the interview and I wish that the French film wasn’t so intrusive as I couldn’t hear what Helen and Rob were saying. It is great to know there is another book, and Jonah. Great story.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for your comment, nice to know you liked Cleo so much. It’s incredibly moving isn’t it? I love the French film clip too. To be fair, it is their film made for their French audience so it’s reasonable they’ll speak in French over Helen and Rob! But I know what you mean, I was straining to hear too. We publish After Cleo next July so please keep an eye out. Lisa

  2. Helen says:

    Thanks Connie and Lisa. Our friends were all surprised Rob and I could speak such fluent French! They were a lovely film crew. I wondered how they were going to get any shots of Jonah as he’s such a hyper neurotic cat. But the cameraman does a lot of wildlife filming and was infinitely patient. He ended up shadowing our feline all day – with great results, don’t you think?

  3. Sindy Sutheran says:

    What a moving book! I’ve literally just finished reading ‘Cleo’ and have only five minutes to compose myself and wipe all evidence oftears away before my next class enters the room. For a book to move me to tears at so many points is rare, I believe that this novel is unique. Above all, I feel honoured and privileged to have been welcomed into such a wonderful family with the turn of each page. Amazingly beautiful.

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Sindy and share your thoughts on this very moving book. Hope you did manage to compose yourself before class, but I’m sure they’d have understood why. Lisa

  4. Helen says:

    I’m always very touched when people respond so emotionally to our story. Thank you for your generous words, Sindy. It makes a writer’s life worthwhile. Helen

  5. Daniel says:

    I just finished reading Cleo like, 10 minutes ago. I’ll admit, I cried buckets. It was so moving. And it’s weird, I feel like I’ve actually known Rob since he was 6, so seeing him as an adult is just so strange.
    I have to ask, is Ginny still alive? I sincerely hope so. If she is, I’d love to visit her and just give her a big hug for being so amazing.

  6. Sue says:

    Wonderful,wonderful book I could not put it down, they say you are either a cat or dog lover, we have two of each and after 61 years of both I still cannot choose, my friends always say my pets are special but I think that every pet are special in their own way, and long may it remain that way , I lost Thomas, who was so much like Cleo four years ago in November and I still miss him so much. Looking forward to reading more of your books.

    • Helen says:

      Hi Sue. I think it’s possible to be a cat AND dog person. Both have their strengths. Thanks for your generous feedback about the book. I hope you enjoy the next one just as much.

  7. Beverly says:

    The story of Cleo and how she was woven into the fabric of your joys and sorrows touched me as no other book ever has. I, too, had cats—two of them, a mother and daughter—show up in my life not when invited, but certainly needed. They set up camp in my yard two months after my mother died in 2005. My mother’s passing plunged me into a hopeless darkness that had extinguished any joy I had felt in living. She was my best friend, my confidante, the “wind beneath my wings.” When “Mama” and “Patches,” the two kitty angels arrived, they brought with them a healing power beyond words. They are still with me today, sharing their deepest thoughts, their love, and their infinite wisdom. I know now that my mother sent them.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences, so reminiscent of my own. Many blessings to you!

  8. Helen says:

    Thank you for your touching story. Animals are great healers indeed. Long may Mama and Patches reign over you.

  9. Joye says:

    I just finished the touching story of Cleo, what a wonderful legacy this tiny cat wove! I, too, am a cat lover – at present I have three. They are an important part of my life and despite my allergic friends’ reaction to me having so many cats, I have steadfastly maintained that my life was worth living mainly because of the love of these independent, loving creatures. Thank you so much for sharing Cleo’s (and your) story with the world!

  10. Helen says:

    Three cats isn’t too bad in the scheme of things. My friend Vivienne had nine cats when I met her. I immediately thought “oh oh. Mad cat lady”. But she proved me wrong. They’re all rescue cats who couldn’t find homes. She gives every one of them regal treatment. Unfortunately, finding someone to cat sit for her is almost impossible…so she hardly ever goes on holiday.

  11. Helen says:

    I also have just finished reading “CLEO” when I started on the first couple of pages I thought to myself oh oh I will be crying soon and yep. i was actually sitting in bed reading it surrounded by 2 cats who absolutely loathe each other but are never more than a metre apart.
    Very much looking forward to reading the next book

    • Helen says:

      I love the picture of your cats locked in their relationship. Guess you’re the glue that keeps them together. Not so many tears in the new book. Hope you enjoy it just as much.

  12. Karen says:

    I have read the book Cleo 3 times and on the 4th time now I cry and laugh and cry I am a cat person. I have a yellow and a calico cat – can’t wait till the other book comes out!

  13. Sherry York says:

    Dear Helen,
    I just finished your book last night. It was wonderful and I just want to thank you for sharing your story with all of us. I am from the US and it was refreshing to read a book set in another country. I liked your descriptions of the weather and landscape in New Zealand and Australia. I have 6 cats of my own and they are all special. I do think that each cat has a reason for being in our lives and Cleo was a great life line to you when you needed her most. She was there for you during all the good and bad times. I am so sorry for the loss of your son. As a mother myself the pain of losing a child would be unbearable. Cleo helped you and your family get beyond the unbearable to a place where you could start to rebuild the damage to your heart and soul. I look forward to your sequel to Cleo and will get a copy as soon as I see it available.


    • Helen says:

      Dear Sherry,
      Thanks for your kind words. It’s great to know you enjoyed reading Cleo so much. With six cats, you are a true cat person. I bow to your dedication to the feline species.

  14. Helen says:

    Hello Karen , your cats must be very patient letting you read Cleo four times! I guess they’re flossing their teeth on the pages. I hope Cats and Daughters keeps them just as entertained.

  15. Debbie Collins says:

    I just finished reading “Cleo”. It’s a great book. I’m in the US. Are your new books ” Cats & Daughters ” and ” Jonah” available in the US ?

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Debbie

      Cats & Daughters is Helen’s next book (Jonah was an earlier title which we decided not to go with) I don’t have news of a US sale yet but you can go to Helen’s website & check for updates
      http://helenbrown.com.au/ Otherwise, I’m sure you can order online.

  16. Kelly says:

    Helen, I just finished Cleo. And I absolutely loved it. I have a Cleo as well, and a Benny, Joon and Simon. So the idea of cats helping you heal makes total sense to me. I saw on your blog you mentioned that you might be in Phoenix? Did I already miss that signing? I would love to meet you and have my book signed.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks, Kelly. I was in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. Sorry to have missed you. You live in a lovely city. We particularly enjoyed knocking around Scottsdale and visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s settlement in the hills. Missed out on the baseball, though!

  17. Susie Hare says:

    I have just finished After Cleo (cats and daughters I presume). Another fantastic book, thanks Helen. I absolutely loved cleo, I picked it up in the bookshop and cried as I read the blurb (of course I had to get it!) I think we can all see our cats in yours! We have 6 cats, we seem to have a sign up somewhere ‘stray cats welcome’. They all have such different personalities. I can certainly relate to Jonah with our kitten but we would be hard pressed to find one as special as Cleo!

    • helen brown says:

      Hi Susie, I’m so happy you enjoyed my books. Six cats! You’re a champion. I’m fostering one in New York at present. Bono has kidney disease so will probably never find a home, but he’s very affectionate and cute. You might like to check out my blog about him on Huffington Post.

  18. Robbie Stuart says:

    Loved your book Helen on Cleo. What a special special little girl. I cried and cricd when I finished your book as I lost my angel Tilly last August, she was nearly 19. She came into my life as well when I needed her most….I was going through IVF and never had a child, but Tilly knew when I was hurting and when I needed her most. She was the little girl I never had. I loved her more than life itself, so when she died, a little part of me went with her. Your book was beautiful, funny, sad and gut wrenching. I look forward to reading Jonah’s story….so glad another furry wound his way into your life!

    • helen brown says:

      Dear Robbie,
      Thanks for your lovely message. So sorry you lost your Tilly. She would have been a great comfort through the ups and downs of IVF. I wonder, has another cat healer stepped into your life since?

  19. bonnie says:

    Dear Helen, Thank you for sharing your reality and life with Sam. I lost a son too and I must tell you the chapter in your book that addressed Arthur Judson made me weep. We too were fortunate to have an Angel attend our son as he passed. what a gift xxx
    Be happy and trust that all is well
    Aloha pumehana

    • Helen says:

      Dear Bonnie,
      Apologies for taking so long to reply to your message, which I’ve only just found. My heart went out to you when I read that you too have lost a son. No doubt you find comfort in knowing someone was at his side.
      I hope your hearts are healing.
      Life is wonderful.
      Warmest wishes,

  20. Laurie says:

    I just finished “Cats and Daughter”. I loved it!!!!! I have also read “Cleo”. Two wonderful books to read!!! I can’t wait for the next book. When does it come out? It is VERY hard to find a book that I can read and not want to put it down BUT, those two were it!!!! Thanks for all the ups and downs that you shared. Thanks for writing a book about a cat. They are VERY hard to find. Most are about dogs and I do love the canines BUT I REALLY love the felines!!!!

    • Helen says:

      Dear Laurie,
      Thanks for your kind words. I’m delighted you enjoyed my books.
      My next book, Tumbledown Manor, pays homage to women who have taken life by the scruff of the neck and given it a good shake. It features a one eyed cat, by the way – and a cockatoo.

  21. BALMAYER says:

    Merci pour ce beau livre sur Cléo et Sam; histoire très émouvante qui m ‘a fait pleurer plus d’une fois.
    Je suis certaine que Cléo veille sur vous.
    Je termine Jonah et superbe là aussi.
    Merci à vous

  22. martin says:

    Hi Helen I just finished reading your book Cleo. The reason this book attracted me in the bookstore was after our British Short-hair died after short battle with illness. He was 11 years old. He was a huge part of our lives and has left us devastated. Cleo (the book) has helped me learn to heal and move on from the pain, and learn how to enjoy and appreciate life. I’m sorry what had happened to Sam. You were so fortunate to have Cleo for so many years and she was fortunate to have you. Incredible cat and your story telling was incredible as well. Thank for the book Cleo.

    Take care

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