I shouldn’t be reading this month with all the stuff that I’ve got going on in my life but a book going off Kindle’s Free Unlimited sale caught my eye. I promptly downloaded West With the Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge thinking if 77% of 29,289 readers gave it a five star review it should be worth my time. I was look for a slow read, something that was easy to put down and ignore for days at a time. Boy, did I miss that mark. I read it in two days, then bought a copy and started listening to the audio venison.
West With the Giraffes is a work of fiction that was inspired by a true event that happened in1938 during The Depression. An event that was followed by over 500 newspapers across the country as they tracked two young giraffes that survived a hurricane at sea and spent twelve days getting from New York to the San Diego Zoo. They rode in the back of a tricked-out farm truck escorted by a crusty old zoo worker and a homeless teen victim of the Dust Bowl. Following in a car was a young woman who aspired to be a photographer for Life Magazine. Amazon’s blurb says this about the book: “Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, West with Giraffes explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.”
The author writes the book from the point of view of the teen boy only he's very elderly and is looking back at the many perils they found along the way. I couldn’t put this book down. Aside from the adventure aspect and the descriptions of the people they met along the way, I loved the philosophy sprinkled through out like: "...destiny is a mobile thing—that every choice you make, along with every choice made around you, can cause it to spin this way and that, offering destinies galore."
Here’s a couple more of my favorites passages:
“Time heals all wounds, they say. I’m here to tell you that time can wound you all on its own. In a long life, there is a singular moment when you know you’ve made more memories than any new ones you'll ever make. That’s when the moment your truest stories---the ones that made you the you that you became---are ever more in the front of your mind, as you begin to reach back for the you that you deemed best.”
And: “I had quit going to the zoo, spirit willing but body worn out. What I hadn’t noticed is my mind was wearing out, too. Time plays its cruelest trick without you knowing it. Even the memories a body holds most dear becomes like scratchy old phonograph records played too long, fading in and out with little sound and even less fury. Until you’re only another old man sitting in a wheelchair…”
I did a little research on the author and found out she’s an animal lover who has spent time with giraffes but I didn’t need to know that to know that she sure can write wonderful descriptions of them---their movements and personalities right down to what it feels like when they sneeze snot all over you or lick your head, smell your crotch. I love it when an author’s cadence---rhythmic flow of language pleases my ears while the words themselves spark my imagination. Lynda Rutledge did that for me in this book. Or maybe I was just ready to break out of genre reading with something that made me think instead of just mindlessly popping words off pages like eating popcorn at the movies.
This post is a tad shorter than I usually write and with the long quotes I included it didn't take me long. I'm assuming all my posts in September and half of October might be short but I'm hoping not to miss any of my bi-weekly commitments to myself. I might even reach into the archives to re-post some of my favorites, although I don't like to do that if I can avoid it. Just warning you all ahead of time. ©