The Readers met on August 16th to discuss West with Giraffes, by Lynda Rutledge. The book, which received an overall rating of 3.85, is a historical work inspired by the true story of two giraffes who survived an Atlantic hurricane and made a cross-country trip to the San Diego Zoo. The book begins in the year 2025, when Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, learns that giraffes are becoming extinct. This triggers memories of the trip he made with the giraffes back in 1938, during the Great Depression. Woody was a young Dust Bowl survivor, and through a set of circumstances, gets hired to drive the giraffes to their final destination. Along the way, we are introduced to a young reporter, whom Woody calls Red, the Giraffe's handler, referred to as "Old Man" in the novel, and learn about Belle Benchley, the first female zoo director in the world.
Overall, the group enjoyed the book, and they particularly liked the storytelling aspect. In the twelve days it took Woody to drive the giraffes to the zoo, they experienced a number of adventures, some of them realistic, some not so much. We are reminded of the grim times people suffered through during the depression, Hoovervilles and segregation. Some of the Readers felt that since the author did not give the characters real names, choosing instead to call them Red, Old Man, Girl and Boy, they did not feel connected to them. The book printed actual newspaper articles that were run during the giraffe's journey. This was a fun aspect to the story, reminding the group that this was indeed, a work of fiction based on a real life historical event. The giraffes, Lofty and Patches, lived at the San Diego Zoo for nearly thirty years and had seven offspring.