Sunday, November 30, 2008

How It Was with Dooms: A True Story from Africa by Xan Hopcraft and Carol Cawthra Hopcraft

This is the most amazing book! If you are an animal lover and have ever wished you could live with wild animals, you have to read this. The book is told first person by Xan, who wasn't born yet when Dooms came to his parent's ranch in Kenya as a 3 or 4- week-old orphaned cheetah. The book is full of amazing pictures taken by Xan's mother. In fact, I love looking at the pictures so much that I'm going to buy a copy for myself. There has been some criticism of the book as glorifying the idea of keeping a wild animal as a pet, but I did some research and found an article giving the background of the book and an interview with Carol Hopcraft. Xan's father is a second-generation Kenyan who, with his wife Carol, owns a ranch where he researches and teaches sustainable farming. It's not really accurate to call Dooms a pet, because he was allowed to come and go as he liked; it's just that he never left. The book tells a beautiful and moving story of an unlikely friendship. I kept wondering how a parent could ever trust a wild animal so completely as to let their infant climb over its tail, or to lie back resting on it like I did with our dogs when I was growing up. The end is sad, of course, but it's what always has to happen when we love an animal that doesn't live as long as we do, and in the story it's handled beautifully. Review by Stacy Church

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