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Martin's Must Reads: 'West with Giraffes'

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A September 22, 1938 telegram addressed to Mrs. Belle Benchley at the Sand Diego Zoo read, “ Hurricane damaged shipment. Giraffes alive. Advise on delivery.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s the first telegram that appears in Lynda Rutledge’s novel West With Giraffes. It’s a fictional account of an actual event, a twelve day journey from New York to California for two giraffes from Africa. They are met by one of the zookeepers, Riley Jones, who loads them on a customized truck for the trip across the country. After his driver deserts him, a seventeen year old dust bowl orphan, Woody Nickel, becomes his driver. Woody falls in love with giraffes Boy and Girl and with a red headed photographer, Augusta. Augusta claims to work for Life magazine and follows the truck snapping photos of the giraffes, the scenery and the people along the way.

Every night they find lodging surrounded by trees so the giraffes can eat. The novel actually begins with Woody’s last days of his 105th year when he struggles to commit the story of the giraffes’ journey to paper after learning they are on the brink of extinction. The journey is full of adventures — a sinister circus owner tries to steal the giraffes, a flash flood threatens to tip the truck over, narrow switchbacks nearly tumble the truck down the side of a mountain.

As the fly leaf says, “Part adventure, part historical saga, and part coming-of-age love story, the book explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time, and a story told before it’s too late.“

If you love giraffes and a well told story, then you must read West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge.

Betty Martin was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a Lutheran pastor and his organist wife. Betty’s love of books was inspired by her father who read to all four children each night.
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