The Sanctuary Book Review

Sanctuary is the remarkable true story of how faith turned one lost man’s life around with the help of the rescue animals who loved him.

In the small Irish village of Liscarroll, Patrick Barrett helped his family run a sanctuary for abandoned and abused donkeys. He did poorly in school and his headmaster beat him. Patrick only felt truly accepted in the presence of the donkeys and he could read their body language and communicate in ways they could understand.

Falling prey to the cultural norms of life in an Irish village, Barrett had his first drink at age seven and came to depend on alcohol to numb his anxiety. At age 19, he was involved in a drunk driving accident and enlisted in the Irish Army to avoid serving jail time. For five years, he experienced wartime horrors in Lebanon and Kosovo and returned home a broken man with PTSD. He used alcohol to medicate his pain. He turned his life around when he became a Christian while working at the donkey sanctuary.

Sanctuary is a sweet story about the love between a man and his donkeys and the intersection between faith and healing. I didn’t know people abused donkeys in Ireland and in other places around the world; some details were hard for me to read. I’m so glad Patrick’s family created a sanctuary to protect and heal them—their love for the animals shined through and pulled on my heartstrings. The Irish lilt of the audio version’s narrator was charming. I’ve written many pieces about people’s struggles with addiction and how God rescued them. In this instance, donkeys saved the author. God is so creative!

Although the book was written for an adult audience, it is appropriate for older teens and young adults. My only constructive criticism is that the same stories/anecdotes were used more than once. Also, on audio, the bouncing back and forth between narratives didn’t always work. Don’t let those comments stop you from reading it, though, just keeping it real. Sanctuary will make you smile. 4 stars.

Published Date: March 2022
Genre: Memoir
Read-alikes: Joey: How a Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn to See by Jennifer Marshall Bleakly; Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself: A Man and His Dog’s Struggle to Find Salvation by Zak Anderegg; Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life by Shannon Kopp.

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