Kimber here. Her Crankiness can’t come to the blog right now. That’s cuz she’s neck-deep in Mom Book Cranky. And we’re out of cookies ‘n cream ice cream. Lemme explain a bit more on the book front.
Back when Mom was young and foolish – about 20 minutes ago – we took pretty much any request for a book review and ran with it. Hindsight being 20/20, as they say, we learned a few things in the process. Like:
- Not all requests for book reviews are created equal.
- Our time is limited. So is our attention. We don’t have the time to plow through a book that wouldn’t pass third grade muster. Or spell check.
We get tons of requests for book reviews. From authors. Publicists. Publishers. Feline fans. (Nobody’s perfect.) We love reading good books by gifted writers. And doing honest book reviews. But…
Have you ever re-discovered a book from your childhood that still has the power to move and profoundly impact you, even a half century after your initial read? If so, then you’ve found a true classic.
Joy Adamson’s Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds is such a book.
A Remarkable True Story
Evocative and compelling, Born Free is the remarkable true story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy Adamson and her husband, George.
At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to set her free.
It’s probably the most moving and inspiring “animal story” I’ve ever read.
Joy Adamson wrote three books about African lions: Born Free, Living Free, and Forever Free. I read them all. Born Free is my favorite.
I first read Born Free in 1969, nine years after it was first published. I was in the fifth grade. Entranced, I read it over and over. There’s something timeless and transcendent about the story that’s difficult to put into words.
I lost track of Adamson and Elsa over the years. But I never forgot the extraordinary story of a free born lioness and the humans who loved her. I recently located a library copy of Born Free. Finally.
Like a Ton of Bricks
Opening the Forward to the Fortieth Anniversary Edition (2000), I was startled to learn that Joy Adamson was stabbed to death by a disgruntled former employee in 1980. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I’d lost a best friend I’d never met. So it was with a mixed sense of sadness and reverence that I sat in a sun-soaked living room in a far corner of the Pacific Northwest nearly forty years after that sad event and re-opened a book that profoundly impacted my life, especially with regard to animals.
Lavishly illustrated with black and white photographs, Elsa’s story is still an unforgettable one. So is Adamson’s prodigious writing talent. Her breezy, bucolic style recalls another formidable literary talent who writes so evocatively about her life in Kenya: Isak Dinesen. Like Dinesen, Adamson’s descriptions of her life as the wife of a senior game warden in East Africa have a luminous quality that is almost melodic.
I read Born Free cover to cover in one sitting. Here’s a key line, from page 109:
“Her (Elsa’s) good-natured temperament was certainly due in part to her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.”
The Adamsons and Elsa succeed beyond all expectations.
Re-reading the last chapter, The Final Test, the same intense sense of sadness and loss these pages evoked in me five decades ago bubbled up again from some deep internal well. It was as if Elsa and her human pride had never left, patiently waiting 50 years for my return to their story.
Recording Elsa’s success in finding her own wild pride and mate, Adamson writes:
“We returned to camp alone, and very sad. Should we leave her now, and so close a very important chapter of our lives?”
The Adamsons decide to wait “a few more days” to make sure Elsa has been accepted by the pride.
In the final elegiac paragraph, Adamson returns to her “studio” by the river to continue writing the story of Elsa, “who had been with us until this morning.” Sad to be alone, the author writes that she tries to make herself happy “by imagining that at this very moment Elsa was rubbing her soft skin against another lion’s skin and resting with him in the shade, as she had often rested here with me.”
I cried. Again.
And that, friends, is the mark of a true classic.
Elsa on Camp Bed Photo Credit
Author’s note: This post was first published on Pages and Paws in June 2019. We thought it deserves a second run. – Mom and The Kimster
Euphrates Yield (Mascot Books, August 2020)
By David H. Hanks
The third and final installment in the Carson Griffin series, Euphrates Yield tries hard to be a Tom Clancy-esque mystery thriller and spy/espionage story with a high octane kick.
It falls short for several reasons.
By Monique Roy
The art world is filled with secrets and a dark past.
Mystery abounds as Oxford art student Ava Goldman tries to unravel the truth about her family’s past with the help of her ailing grandmother, Gisela. It begins with a “chance” encounter with a uniformed Nazi on the banks of the Thames River in 2013, followed by a posthumous letter from Ava’s art loving grandfather, Karl. Vowing to find a priceless van Gogh painting plundered by the Nazis from her grandparents, Ava steps into a world of shadow, mystery, and menace.
Ever finish a book and thought:
“Well. That’s (fill in the blank) hours or days out of my life I’ll never be able to get back”?
Mom and I have run across some of those lately. They’re the kind of books that epitomize the phrase, “All that glitters is not gold.” Cuz they’re just lousy. Boring. Insipid. Pointless slogs to the Middle of Nowhere. Littered with unsympathetic, cardboard characters we don’t know, don’t want to know, and could care less about.
Mom and I, we nominate these losers for what we call BKLBITS “awards.” That’s Big Kitty Litter Box In The Sky.
We’re telling you this to save you some time. As in, don’t waste yours on these colossal duds.
Heading this summer’s BKLBITS nominations, all of which earned a one star rating or less, are:
We. Are. So. Excited!!
Okay, okay. One of us is always excited. The other? Well, whenever she feels excitement coming down the pike, she lies down until the feeling goes away. (Hi, Mom.)
Anyway, Kimber here. So excited to tell you about a free online event related to one of our favorite books this year, Walks With Sam! Here’s the 4-1-1:
On September 13 at 6:30pm central, there’ll be a free online event to officially launch Walks With Sam.
All are welcome. Even cats.
Here’s the link:
Be there or be a feline!
Bloggers! Readers! Writers! Book and canine lovers of all ages!
Your attention please!
Kimber here. Cuz Mom is going a little bit crazy. Well. I guess I should say crazier than usual. But it’s a good kind of crazy. The smiley kind if ya know what I mean.
Here’s the doggone lowdown on today’s PSA:
We’re overwhelmed. Requests for book reviews have been flooding in like a tsunami. We love it! But we just can’t keep up.
Black Willows (Black Rose Writing, October 2020)
By Jill Hand
General Fiction (Adult)/Humor/Mystery & Thrillers
The Apple Dumpling Gang meets the red earth of Tara in this delicious romp through a Georgia playground of the rich and infamous.
When the Trapnell family patriarch dies, spoiled rotten and uber shallow family members drool over their slice of the $40 billion family fortune. They all try to snatch Daddy’s will from the shaky hands of a senile probate judge in order to further their own ridiculous plans.