Tuesday, August 3, 2010
An Inconvenient Elephant – A Review
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Librarything as part of their Early Reviewers Programme. The views expressed here are honest and are in no way influenced by the author or the publisher.
PUBLISHED: July 27th, 2010
From the author of Still Life with Elephant comes the story of one woman and her quest to save a majestic animal.
After a year spent caring for baby elephants in Africa, Neelie Sterling is preparing to return to the States and a life filled with exes—ex-boyfriend, ex-husband, ex-house, ex-horse. But she is leaving behind some unfinished business in Zimbabwe: a very special elephant targeted for execution. With the help of her new friend Diamond-Rose Tremaine, an eccentric safari operator, Neelie manages to buy some time for the imperiled pachyderm, knowing that when she lands in New York they'll need to raise funds for his rescue.
Once they're home, everything becomes a struggle. Neelie and Diamond-Rose now must relearn how to survive in an urban jungle of table manners and real beds while coping with the overbearing affections of Neelie's family. Harder still, Neelie desperately needs the help of her wealthy conservationist ex-boyfriend, Tom, to save the magnificent creature—and swallowing her pride just might be the biggest challenge of all.
An Inconvenient Elephant is a touching tale about discovering one’s self and the importance of family. Ideally the use of elephants as the central figures in the story was also used to emphasis this theme since elephants are phratric animals and their units are developed in unconventional ways. Similarly, the main characters formed these family units emphasizing the notion that family does not necessarily mean blood related. Other themes that rose from the story were the modern debate about rehabilitation of animals and striking a balance between your professional goals and the goals that are set for you by society. The latter theme is more prevalent among women in this decade who seek to fulfill their career dreams and strive for independence as oppose to starting a family. All of the themes were integrated into the story very well and made it a real joy to read.
The story is also lightly coloured with humor which contributed to its ‘unputdownable’ factor. There were many times when I found myself laughing out loud at Diamond teaching a Cockatoo to swear or the lovable but seriously neurotic Mrs. Wycliff. The humor is very witty and grown-up but relevant and totally unexpected which made me enjoy the story even more. An Inconvenient Elephant was also touching because you got a first-hand view into the perils that wild animals face and how these animals are rescued. I certainly became more appreciative of all the work done by animal activist around the world.
Many of the reviews that I have read so far state that the plot was a bit obvious but I have to disagree. Perhaps I wasn’t paying much attention but I found that there was an element of uncertainty to the story especially when it came to rescuing the elephants. I also appreciated the linguistic artistry in many of the chapters by the author. Often times she started them with literal devices and then meshes them with the overall story and plot. I think that by employing this tactic, the author gave us another level in which to understand the difficulties that the characters were facing and it sort of forces you to think about how you would cope if you were in a similar situation.
The characters were like a mixed bag of nuts if you look at them closely. Neelie, the Jane Goodall of Elephants is a nice character though sometimes I found that she was a bit erratic and just too sensitive. She is the main character who ironically is learning some of life’s most important lesson from elephants. Diamond was a great character to get to know. She draws a constant reference to her life in Africa which shows up the rich culture that exists there. One might argue that there were some characters who were a bit stereotypical such as Jungle Jim ( a representation of many of the male animal activist we see on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel) yet there presence in the story was really overshadowed by the animals and their daring rescue.
Animal lovers and non-animals lovers will enjoy this story because of its overall themes, good plot and storyline and its wit and humor. And I look forward to hearing more from Judy Reene Singer.
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