This book is well written. There is one thing I dislike when I read, and here is an example: “But I swear I ain’t et more’n my share, Mr. Jones!” I find that sort of writing just too difficult to read, but that may be because English was my second language. Huck Finn and Gone with the Wind employ the same device, and they’re obviously classics. This is just a personal preference of mine. Fortunately, that doesn’t come up frequently in this book, but it does come up.This book was acquired through my daughter’s Amazon account and shared via the Family Library. This feature can significantly increase your access to First Reads books! 🙂
I liked the idea of this book until I started reading. What’s not to like about a historical tale partly grounded in truth about two giraffes’ journey across the country to their new zoo home? But the way the author chose to frame the story was both artificial and distancing. A worker at the VA finds a footlocker full of writing by a recently deceased vet, one of the men who traveled with these animals. That could have been fine, but the way the author chose to have this man write came across as exceedingly overwritten for its supposed author, as if he is trying to lend too much gravitas to the situation. Here’s an example: “And there is still this story that’s yours as good as mine. If it goes extinct, too, with my old bag of bones, that’d be a crying shame–*my* shame. Because if ever I could claim to have seen the face of God, it was in the colossal faces of those giraffes.” Now, thankfully, not all the old man’s supposed writing sounds that bad, but the rest of the narrative wasn’t much better. It often came across as more telling rather than showing, like an old man recounting his life with the benefit of hindsight. When we live our lives, we don’t have that benefit. So when a story is told in that way, it builds a wall between reader and story. At some point, that wall of telling needs to fall away so we can simply experience the events and draw our own conclusions without the narrator telling us. I did find this artifice distancing and never really could get into the story.
This novel gripped me at the center of my being. Absolutely loved the story of the two giraffes and their journey. It tugged at me from the first pages as it mentioned the Great Hurricane of 1938. (My Mom was in high school then and heard so many stories of the impact in Vermont). This was a monster of a storm and sets the premise for this novel.Poignant to read as Woodrow Wilson Nickel recounts his memories of the Wild Girl and the Wild Boy… He had never seen a giraffe previously, and he explains their likes and dislikes well. Staring into Wild Girl’s eyes and feeling her stare back at him, I believe that was ‘love at first sight’.The reader will learn about the Dust Bowl and the effects it had on the ones who lived through it….including Woodrow. Just imagine having your entire family wiped out during those days and the effect that a survivor would always carry with him. Incredible.The articles from the various newspapers are included so the reader will be able to read the historical story of the giraffes. Western Union telegrams are included as well… (The Zoom is in effect so one can easily read these portions). I felt that these contributed greatly to this novel.Old age has hit Woodrow and being a patient in the VA has its moments, for sure. He is bound and determined to write his story before he dies. And, he explains his love for the giraffes so powerfully. We should be so lucky to encounter these animals and get to know them so well…up close and personal.As Woodrow Wilson Nickel states at the beginning: “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes’…A lucky man, indeed.If one is a lover of nature, this is a perfect novel to read. It is at the very top of the ones I have read in the First Read offerings. The author manages to weave the historical aspects into the text to give the readers that part of the story…Lots in this one and am so pleased to have selected this for January 2021.My highest recommendation. Truly excellent…
This wonderful story is about so much more than just giraffes and their travel across USA. It is about life before and during Dust Ball in Panhandle, about 1938 hurricane in New York, about driving through treacherous Sky Drive in Shenandoah as well as about many other dramatic events and adventures I can not disclose without spoilers.The main character, a 17 years old Woody, is far from being a model citizen, he survived very harsh times and is determined to keep surviving by all means available. Traveling with Woody, Old Men, a female photographer, and with giraffes from coast to coast is full of dangerous undertaking and gives reader a fascinating picture of USA in 1938. But, most of all, the story is about building relationships with other people and with animals.I loved that the plot is loosely based on true event and enjoyed authentic newspaper clippings and correspondence from these times. I longed for a map and a drawing of the rig. I did not enjoyed as much the short interrupting chapters from year 2025 when very old Woody writes his memoirs. But they add a little of nostalgic/poetic touch and (fortunately) are very short and not distracting from the main plot.Bottom line: Although I fully agree with the citation at first page of this book (“ Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.“), one does not need to be an animal lover to enjoy this story. It is much more about people and US history than about animals.
Rich characters, historical accuracies, and a writing style that is captivating. This novel is so enjoyable I read it in one winter day in front o the fireplace not wanting to put it down.
I really enjoyed this book! It was full of historical details from the time and I learned a bout a lot of things I didn’t know about. I found myself looking up the giraffes Lofty and Patches and found this photo online. This was one of my favorite First Reads so far!
I have been very fortunate to read this as part of the Amazon first reads on my Kindle. I will be buying a copy for my bookworm Mum, as it’s a warm, engaging read that most definitely needs sharing. This beautifully written novel draws you in from the very first page, and keeps you immersed until the final sentence.
I took this as one of my Firstreads choices this month and am so glad I did. It’s a fictionalised account of the true story of two girafes who arrived on the east coast of America, with their destination being San Diego zoo. It’s the story of the journey, the highs and lows and the characters involved. I was gripped wthin the first few pages, feeling great affinity for Woody especially, but also loving the Darlings and their onions! The characters of Red and Mr Riley Jones are well developed, both playing their part in Woody’s transition from boy to man. The backdrop of the novel is interesting too, from the hurricane, the anxious Sky Drive, to the Dust Bowl horrors, and set too againt Hitler’s Germany in 1938. If you love and have empathy with animals and their carers I think you can’t fail to enjoy this book.
A boy running from his mystery past, two giraffes, a gruff old zoo keeper, a red headed photographer and an adventure so extraordinary it has given me goosebumps.What a beautiful story. A story of self sacrifice, a story of humanity and of animals. I cannot even begin in words to fully say how amazing this book is. But I truly and thoroughly enjoyed every bump in the road as those giraffes were transported from one coast of America to the other.
I’m so glad that I purchased this book from January’s Kindle First Reads. Often, there isn’t a book that catches my attention in the selection, but the unusual title drew me to this one straight away. The title isn’t the only thing that is unusual about this novel, however: it’s one of those that is different and a bit quirky; one that you can’t fit into a box.Lynda Rutledge is an excellent writer and tells an offbeat story with charm, wit, and intelligence. I completely fell in love with the giraffes – and giraffes in general – as the historical facts of their amazing journey from the east to the west coast of America were blended with fiction. Along the way, we get to glimpse a bit of what life was like in the Depression era, and experience seeing the world, learning about life and himself, and falling in love through Woody’s eyes. I can highly recommend this unique and extremely well-written book and will be looking out for more novels by this author.
An evocative, powerful and wonderful novel.I give thanks that there was a writer able to let me live an adventure such as this one; to see the things she describes so well and to feel the emotions she evokes in a reader’s minds is such a privilege.The book is for anyone with even the tiniest bit of worry that we shall soon be living in a human overpopulated world full of humankind and bereft of nature.We cannot let it happen.Read the book, enjoy the story and when it ends stop to think… then fight for man’s common sense to prevail, the greed to stop and and the wildlife to be saved… somehow.