Sunday, June 10, 2007

Welcome to the Condemned Monkey House

Books about animals make me wary. I won't watch/read/listen to anything in which an animal suffers unnecessarily. I'm not fond of those stories where it's necessary, either. Although I recall not minding much when Cujo bit the dust.
I approached Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo with much trepidation. I knew I'd be reading about horrific wartime conditions of the exotic animals trapped in the zoo in the midst of shelling, bombs and looting. I also knew there would be plenty of moments of redemption and salvation. There are equal parts of both in Lawrence Anthony's memoir of his harrowing journey to war-torn Baghdad in order to save and protect the world renowned zoo. Anthony discovers his own survival is in jeopardy as well as that of the animals he attempts to save. With help from steadfast American soldiers and loyal, ingenious Iraqi zookeepers, Anthony begins to create a livable habitat for the animals left behind when the city was evacuated. Each day is fraught with new and life-threatening challenges that Anthony meets with righteous indignation and canny problem-solving skills. Heartfelt, but never treacly, readers who are animal lovers will shed tears; readers who are not will find their souls stirred with the injustice doled out to defenseless creatures. Readers who enjoyed other unusual humanitarian missions such as those recounted in Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson or Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn, will be intrigued by the animals' stories.

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