June 9, 2008
Hammond (Going to Bend) shares the story of charismatic mega-vertebrate Hannah, the elephant star of the failing Max L. Biedelman Zoo, in her sweet but slow third novel. Since the 1950s, Hannah; her loving caretaker, Sam; and the zoo have been languishing. Enter Harriet Saul, the zoo's ambitious new director, and Neva Wilson, an expert elephant keeper; both want to change things, but in different ways. Harriet's plan involves her dressing up as the eccentric zoo founder to give presentations and commissioning original theme music for a publicity campaign. Neva's idea is to move the aging Hannah to an elephant sanctuary, a plan supported by nearly everyone, including the zoo's milquetoast business manager. If the conflict sounds weak, it is; the friendship between Hannah and Sam and the gently informational lessons about elephant care are more memorable than the late-breaking battle. The narrative, with its sprawling cast (and attendant relationships and personal histories), often bogs down, but the moments of genuine emotion will charm readers in search of a happy ending. (Sept.)
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