It’s no secret that I love elephants, historical fiction and adventure. This book, “AN ELEPHANT in the GARDEN” satisfied all those loves.
Not a typical WWII story, it’s a sweet tale that touches only lightly on the horrors of the war. Instead, we learn the perspectives of non-Nazi German citizens and their struggles with becoming fugitives in their own country…with a rescued elephant in tow. It’s not littered with facts but rather, with real feelings.
During WWII, Dresden, Germany was blasted and bombed unmercifully. This is a novel about an elderly woman, (Lizzie,) now in a nursing home, who recounts the story of her brave mother who worked at the local Dresden Zoo. Fearing that an elephant she had tended since birth would die in the war, she brought the animal home. Based on a real story the author came upon, Lizzie tells her life story to one of her nurses and the woman’s 9 year old son.
It’s the story of her family (minus her father, who was serving in his country’s military,) …her Mutti, who escaped the bombings in Dresden with a daughter (now the storyteller, Lizzie,) her son and Marlene. This group of refugees form a family with Marlene, the elephant, (named after Marlene Dietrich,) who work together to escape the bombings and the Russians by heading west, towards safety and the American allies.
It’s a beautifully written tale of survival, loss, unusual friendships and hope. While the author doesn’t shy away from the harshness of war, there’s no fighting or killing in this story. He shares how his characters feel about the war around them and recounts how little acts of kindness and moments of sheer terror shape their lives. His people leap off the pages and we’re there to share in their daily quests for food, shelter and safety.
The overall messages of “AN ELEPHANT in the GARDEN” are of courage, resilience, friendship and hope…its readership transcends any specific age category…it’s PURE MAGIC!