Sunday Reads: An author and her cat, plus a viral story gone wrong

In case you missed it, Madison Magazine is sharing our introduction to the last month's edition of our monthly 'Sunday Reads' newsletter.
Sunday Reads banner with red bars and an illustrated cat sitting atop a stack of books next to a plant and coffee mug.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the June edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, curated by Associate Editor Maggie Ginsberg. The rest of the monthly newsletter includes links to other articles within and outside of the magazine, plus book coverage and other literary news around town. Sign up for future newsletters here. There is still time to sign up for the next newsletter, which will be emailed on Sunday, July 31.

A few weeks ago, my husband was approached by an older woman and her friend. They wanted to buy his car, a well-used 1991 black Mercedes 500SL convertible, the same model once owned by Princess Di (hers was maroon). They each cut him matching crisp paper checks for their respective halves — and I instantly recognized one of the women as 89-year-old Lake Mills author Margot Peters.

Peters published nearly a dozen books and taught in UW–Whitewater’s English department for more than two decades. One of her latest (and the subject of much tongue-wagging around town) was set in “Mills Lake” — even now I can’t type that sentence without grinning. I never met Peters. But I first learned about her after reading a 2020 Wisconsin State Journal article by Barry Adams, and every time I jogged through the neighborhood surrounding my husband’s bicycle shop I thought about how cool it was that this prolific and clearly formidable author lived in Lake Mills.

A few days after selling the car, my husband got a call. It was from a woman whose neighbor had entered hospice and had an 11-year-old Persian cat that needed rehoming. She knew Andy had Persian cats and asked if he had room for one more — he immediately said yes. It was only when he went to pick sweet “Plummy” up that he learned the cat belonged to none other than Peters. As heartbreaking as the situation was, it was also an extraordinary coincidence that made the whole thing feel meant-to-be.

Last Sunday, another Barry Adams article on Peters hit the front page — this time, sadly, announcing her death. It was news to us, not only that she’d died when she’d seemed so alive, but that she’d gone into the hospital the very night she and her friend bought the car. Adams wrote about Andy’s car, and the process of rehoming the cat, but the journalist had no idea the convertible’s former owner and the cat’s new owner were one and the same (yes, I’ve since told him).

Plummy is so sweet and she is settling in nicely. She’s still understandably guarded but I just keep trying to soothe her with my energy, which I hope she recognizes as kindred to her former owner; one woman author who admired another, with similar tastes in books, communities, cats and cars.

My deepest condolences to the loved ones of Margot Peters.

This short essay originally appeared as the introduction to the June edition of Madison Magazine’s monthly “Sunday Reads” newsletter, which is curated by Associate Editor Maggie Ginsberg and includes a rundown on the current print issue, links to print stories you might have missed, web exclusive content like the Doug Moe’s Madison blog, book recommendations, author Q&As and other literary coverage around town. To sign up for the monthly newsletter, enter your email address below. The next newsletter will be emailed on Sunday, July 31.

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