West with Giraffes – Book Review

“Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…”

Inspired by true events, this part adventure, part historical saga and part coming-of-age love story follows Woodrow Wilson Nickel as he recalls his journey in 1938 to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo.

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going extinct, he recalls the unforgettable experience he cannot take to his grave.
It’s 1938. The Great Depression lingers. Hitler is threatening Europe, and world-weary Americans long for wonder. They find it in two giraffes who miraculously survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. What follows is a twelve-day road trip in a custom truck to deliver Southern California’s first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo.

Behind the wheel is the young Dust Bowl rowdy Woodrow. Inspired by true events, the tale weaves real-life figures with fictional ones, including the world’s first female zoo director, a crusty old man with a past, a young female photographer with a secret, and assorted reprobates as spotty as the giraffes.

Many people recommended I read this book, so I finally took the plunge. Several of the primary characters have interesting relationships with the truth, which kept me guessing but also made me anxious nervous. Whenever someone tells lie over lie, they inevitably get caught, and man, did they ever! The depiction of life during The Great Depression was authentic and I could see and smell (but thankfully not taste) the dust, the despair, and the giraffes. This heartwarming, rousing historical novel is witty and charming and I enjoyed it very much. 5 stars.

Publish Date: February 2021
Genre: Adult Fiction, historical fiction
Read-alikes: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles, Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig, Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

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