“Sam imaged the Lord must have been in an odd frame of mind the day He created the Asian elephant. When he first met her, Hannah had reminder him of nothing so much as a worn-out, hip-shot, low-slung, dog-ugly poorly dressed floozy in bad shoes. (…) and yet there was a soul, a thing of pure beauty, behind those eyes.”
Sam Brown is a keeper at a second rate zoo and has spent the last forty years caring for lone elephant Hannah. He has vowed not to retire until he has found someone to replace him. A new elephant keeper enters the frame, recognizing what Sam already knows; that despite the love and care, Hannah is isolated from other elephants and suffering from standing on concrete all day. Just as they start hatching a plan to get Hannah to a sanctuary, the zoo launches a campaign to rejuvenate the zoo, with Hannah as the main star.
“Look, I am not anti-captivity and I don’t have a bleeding heart. I’ve been taking care of zoo animals for twenty years, and I believe deeply in what zoos do, what keepers do, and how we do it. But I also believe in doing what’s right for the animals first.”
This book is mostly a story about the people around Hannah, her keeper and a great selection of other characters, who are all intertwined on some level. The characters are well-developed and three dimensional, everyone adding their value to the developing story, even Miles the pig. At times it’s a little sugary and sweet, but in the end it’s a heart warming story about people rallying around an elephant and recognizing her needs.
It is a story reminicent of those for whom we are rallying. The whole book, all I could think of was Lucy, still stuck in Edmonton alone and cold. It addressed a lot of problems that we see everywhere; the constant rocking, the foot problems, the zoos might deny that those are problems, but they are. And elephants deserve better. Lucy, Queenie, Lucky, and all the others out there.