West with Giraffes

By Lynda Rutledge,

Book cover of West with Giraffes

Book description

An emotional, rousing novel inspired by the incredible true story of two giraffes who made headlines and won the hearts of Depression-era America.

"Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes..."

Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, feels his life ebbing away. But when he learns giraffes are going…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked West with Giraffes as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The story is so captivating you’re immediately taken on an adventure to a different time (1920s) and a different place.

The characters are so well-thought-out, and the relationships that develop between them as their journey unfolds are simply heart-warming and emotional. It’s also a book about relationships, love, friendship, and the unique connection between man and animal.

A book that is simply pure escapism. 

When 17-year-old Woody is orphaned during the Dust Bowl, he rides the rails to New York City, where he happens upon two giraffes rescued from a hurricane.

He persuades the older man transporting the animals to take him on as a driver – even though he barely knows how to drive. He learns on the job, and off they go across the country to a zoo in San Diego.

West With Giraffes is poignant and funny, but most of all, the four main characters (including the two giraffes!) are so endearing. All of them form life-long bonds despite a bumpy…

I enjoy reading a book that draws me into another period of time, and Rutledge’s words and settings did that beautifully.

The story grabbed me on page one and never let go. At times, I stopped to savor the prose and the emotions it conveyed and found myself holding the book close to my heart, staring off into space, thinking.

I love a novel that is based on a true story, and this one is beautifully done. It’s about connections, animal and human, and it will stay with me for a very long time. 

I read this book based on a recommendation from a friend, and I enjoyed it so much that I suggested it to my book club.

First of all, I am impressed by female authors who can adeptly write male protagonists (and vice-versa), and Rutledge does a great job with both her main character (Woody) and a secondary one (Riley Jones). She captures the vernacular of the time, with the characters’ word choices and slang feeling very authentic, as if she did her homework where that’s concerned.

It was fun to read descriptions of the infrastructure of this country in the…

This is a tense read, brimming with anticipation of what is waiting right around the corner.

These two giraffes captured my heart from the get-go, and Woody is such a flawed but likable character. I found myself holding my breath, hoping time after time he would make the right decision. 

West With Giraffes is a coming-of-age tale that is full of adventure, mishaps, and keen insights into human behavior. It's also fun to ride cross-country with this band of characters and get a taste of America in the 1930s.

A great read for animal lovers (like me).

Unlike the others on my list, this book is a work of fiction. I loved this book and would go out on a limb and say it is one of the best novels I have ever read. I am still thinking about it months later! It is based on real-life events, but the author uses a fictional framework to bring the reader up close and personal with two giraffes who made an extraordinary journey across the United States during the Great Depression. I love how Lynda Rutledge uses animal history to tell a compelling story.

From Keri's list on animal history.

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