An Ode to Lofty and Patches

West With Giraffes

West With Giraffes – Lynda Rutledge (2021)

Genre – Historical Fiction

Page Count – 356 pages

Publisher – Lake Union Publishing

Everyone loves stories of animals whether anthropomorphized or not. I had the chance to read Perestroika in Paris by Jane Smiley this year and loved every moment of it. When I got West With Giraffes, I didn’t have to think twice about picking it up solely based on the ‘Giraffes’ in the title.

Most people’s experience of reading about the Dust Bowl has been John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and West With Giraffes definitely can not be compared to it but as the taste in fiction has changed and we like to read stories of hope and happiness, maybe this is a great book to read about those tragic years.

If you have not heard of Lofty and Patches, stop right there! Pick this book up first before Googling those names. Girl and Boy, as known in the book, were the first two giraffes in the San Diego zoo. They were driven across the United States in a truck and delivered to the care of Belle Benchley, the director of the zoo at the time.

The story follows the two loving animals and a man who falls in love with them almost immediately. Woodrow Wilson Nickel, a seventeen year old boy, travel East to escape the Dust Bowl, only to fall into bad luck all over again. When opportunity arises for him to be a part of history, he takes it and recounts this story to us.

It’s always interesting to read a fictionalized account of something that really happened and I could almost picture each and every adventure Woody and his ‘boss’ go through, along with Red, an aspiring photographer, as they drive the animals to their destination.

But the story is so much more than that. The narration of the book is brilliant, seamlessly going from one moment to another, never losing it’s flow or becoming boring. At 356 pages, you would expect it to get boring at at least some point, but it doesn’t. The hope and excitement rings true at every moment in the story and even when Woody reminisces his history, you feel good that he has made out of it.

West With Giraffes is a book which will make you smile and have you searching for more historical fiction revolving around animals.

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