Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Non-Fiction Ninth--We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

Book: We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

Series: Nope! A memoir

Extras? No

Published: 2008

Plot (Goodreads):
The house hunt of author Benjamin Mee and his wife, Katherine, ended with an unusual, even bizarre solution: The pair decided to move into a ramshackle zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a degree in psychology and specializes in animal behavior, but not even he could have imagined the complexities of holding sway over more than 200 exotic animals. Almost immediately, the project of reopening the zoo as a family business ran into financial -- and four-footed -- obstacles. Then a major tragedy broke: Katherine's brain tumor recurred and she died at the age of 40. Through it all, the family persevered, and in July 2007, the zoo reopened under Mee management. A bittersweet story about creatures sharing one another's company.

My four-sentence or less take on the plot: Benjamin Mee and his family decide an extremely run down zoo (so run down that the animals are going to be quickly euthanized if a buyer isn't found). The zoo provides an extreme amount of both enjoyment and difficulty. During this time, Mee runs in to personal tragedy when his beloved wife gets diagnosed with brain cancer. This book deals with a lot of the nitty gritty business details of the buying and opening of a zoo.

Rating: 8

What worked:I really liked the book. The subject was interesting, Benjamin Mee has a great voice, and there was a surprising amount of conflict in the book (Will they get the money to buy the zoo? Will the zoo open on time--or at all? Will Mee's wife recover from her illness?). I liked Mee's family and his employees. Most importantly, I liked Mee himself, which is vital in a memoir.
What didn't: I would have liked more pictures of the farm and family in the picture insert. I also would have liked to hear more about the other animals at the zoo--Mee mostly talks about the big cats. Also, be prepared Mee's wife's brain cancer--it's extremely, extremely sad.

Would I recommend the book to someone who hates non-fiction? I would recommend this book to anyone interested in zoos. It's an interesting and easy read. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie and loaning this book out to the Significant Other and my mom. A lot of other reviewers on Goodreads seem to think that it was told in a very amateur style and was jumbled but I think that's pretty par for the course with first time memoirs, so it didn't bother me.

Have you ever read this book? Were you blown away? Or have you seen the television series? Are you excited about the upcoming movie that stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson? They've changed the location to Southern California.

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