Sharon's Book & Wine Club - May 2021

West with giraffes by Lynda Rutledge

“A perfect balance between history and fiction… Rutledge blends fictional characters with real historical personalities to create a story that is equal parts educational, quirky, and romantic.”
–POPSUGAR.com

West with Giraffes is Austin writer Lynda Rutledge’s second novel, preceded by Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale, winner of a 2013 Writers’ League of Texas Book Award. While conducting research in the archives of the San Diego Zoo, Rutledge came across a trove of newspaper articles about two giraffes that had survived a hurricane on the deck of a freighter and a cross-country trip, from New York to California, in 1938. Inspiration struck, and the result is this charming and wondrous enchantment of a novel.

The tale is told through Nickel’s memoir as he writes it in the VA hospital, in a race against time the avenger, the historical story unfolding in first-person narration, regularly interrupted by various nurses and orderlies doing their utmost to convince this cantankerous author-on-a-mission to rest, eat, or take a pill already; he is 105 years old. Even the foreshadowing of tragedy manages to be funny.

The plot unfolds fast and steady, with a surprise down every highway. The dialogue is simple, as related by a seventeen-year-old from the sticks, sometimes clever, sometimes sweet, always true. Nickel says of Augusta, “If Red’s heart was already broken, mine had barely been used . . . her face full of things I did not understand yet was desperate to remember.”

West with Giraffes is a madcap scrape of a coming-of-age road trip, complete with stowaways, circuses, attempted giraffe-napping, biblical catastrophe, romance, shocking truths, brave sacrifices, and tragedy—in short, a grand adventure.

Source: https://www.lonestarliterary.com/content/lone-star-review-west-giraffes

Buy the Book

Reviews

“A delightful read, I couldn’t put it down. Told through the memory of an aged veteran, the story is set against the background of the Dust Bowl, the Depression and the advent of a World War. This improbable, but fact-based, story of two giraffes transported cross country in what was basically an over-balanced flatbed truck made me laugh, cry. and actually care about the dangers they were experiencing. A touch of unrequited romance, a bit of larceny and a droll sense of humor kept me entranced to the end. This book stays in my library for later rereading.”

“West with Giraffes is a madcap scrape of a coming-of-age road trip, complete with stowaways, circuses, attempted giraffe-napping, biblical catastrophe, romance, shocking truths, brave sacrifices, and tragedy—in short, a grand adventure.” -Lone Star Literary Life, National Book Critcis Circle member

Book Club Questions

THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY

  1. Who do you believe is the true protagonist of the story?
  2. How do you think Woody’s childhood shaped him?
  3. What can we learn from Woody’s relationship with the giraffes and our
    human obligation to animals?

THE STORY PLOT

  1. What are the major turning points in the story?
  2. What happens at the beginning of the story that endears us to Woody?
  3. How was the pacing/structure (does it keep you engaged and are the
    stakes constantly escalating)?

THE ENDING

  1. Did it work for you?
  2. Did you feel unsettled by the unanswered questions about the Old
    Man’s past?

SYMBOLISM AND FORESHADOWING

  1. Let’s talk about symbolism. What symbolism was used in the book?
  2. What was the significance of the Old Man’s pigeon? 

THE WRITING

  1. Use one adjective to describe the writing itself.
  2. What would you change if you could rewrite West with Giraffes?
  3. Did you like that Woody is writing his story? How does the power of storytelling play into this novel? 

DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC

  1. What did you love most about the book?