thoughts on books. Because Books are the Best.
The Zookeeper's Wife
Reeder Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I will admit I had not heard of this book until seeing quick previews of the movie. However, I was thoroughly intrigued and immediately wanted to read the story before indulging in its film version, as any good bibliophile is wont to do.
It wasn't until I began the book that I realized the story of zoo owners Antonina and Jan Zabinski was being presented not as historical fiction as I'd assumed but as a straightforward nonfiction piece. Perhaps this is why I struggled to finish this book, despite its highly alluring story and passages of beautiful and heartfelt description. I longed to not just be informed of their lives and heroics but immersed in it with them, privy to their conversations and conflicts as an invisible presence. Ackerman clearly researched and delved into the deepest corners of these individuals tumultuous existence and so my lack of connection to the book is no fault of her own, but mine for expecting a format the book never promised me. I found myself often wishing, when Ackerman referenced or quoted from Antonina's journals, that I was reading her journals themselves without the middle woman, so I would be able to wrap up in the feeling of connectedness with the brave, benevolent soul being sketched before me. I wanted to hear her speaking of the "guests" they housed and referred to as "pheasants" as code, tucked away in the emptied enclosures while German soldiers strolled through their grounds, clueless.
The story is a worthwhile one, and is set apart from the thousands of works centering on the Holocaust because it contains information about wartime happenings I would never have considered (such as a Nazi fascination with certain extinct species), but unless you are prepared for a documentary-on-paper (and have space in your life to truly concentrate on digesting it) you may want to let this one on the Maybe pile.
What She Knew
Reeder Rating: ⭐️⭐️
Rachel is a newly divorced mother coming to terms with the direction of her life when her 8-year-old son Ben is abducted while they are walking his dog in the woods. The book follows the police search and investigation as it tries to hone in on possible suspects, and tracks Rachel's persecution by public opinion and the toll everything takes on her psyche.
The premise of this book pulled me in, but its actual execution was lacking for me. Too many times it felt as if moments that would've made for truly engaging conflict were missed, so that the reaction and reality were too disproportionate. When someone vandalizes Rachel's house, she has a breakdown because of the horribleness of what it says...which turns out to be "Bad Mother." A police secretary faints over an item that arrives in the mail, and the author makes a point of how terrible this item must be as this woman has handled crime scene photos and has seen terrible things often. It turns out to be a mildly threatening letter directed at Ben's father, not a severed finger or other such body part which is where my mind went with the level of build up beforehand.
I also found the prolouge completely unnecessary and anti-climactic for the story and the epilogue shouldn't have been called that, as it was 22 pages long. I let with this one simply because I'm stubborn and I'd borrowed it from the library and didn't want to feel checking it out had been a waste of time.
So, overall, it had potential but never quite grabbed ahold of me. I'd say you can live without finding out What She Knew, and hopefully my next pick will be one worthy of the beach!
Lynne Reeder is a reader and always has been, long before she got married and changed it to her last name (albeit, ironically, misspelled.) Her love of writing stemmed from her love of reading, and she's lost just as much sleep to finishing pageturners as she has to two cute baby girls who just want their mommy to rock them to sleep. Her opinions are her own and are not influenced by any sort of promotional sponsorship.