Saturday, May 24, 2008


I finished Modoc by Ralph Helfer today. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty pumped about this book, which may be why I was slightly disappointed by it. Here's the description directly off the back of the book -
Spanning seven decades and three continents, Modoc is one of the most amazing true animal stories ever told. Raised together in a small German circus town, a boy and an elephant formed a bond that would last their entire lives, and would be tested time and again: through a near-fatal shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, an apprenticeship with the legendary Mahout elephant trainers in the Indian teak forests, and their eventual rise to circus stardom in the 1940s New York City. Modoc is a captivating true story of loyalty, friendship, and high adventure, to be treasured by animal lovers everywhere.

Sounds good, right? Or am I just a big, elephant-loving dork? I was sold. And the story IS good, but the telling of it leaves a bit to be desired. Basically, it's corny. In hindsight, I should have been tipped off by the last sentence on the back description - "treasured by animal lovers everywhere"? Corny. But I think I was blinded by the adorable picture on the cover.

The author is an actual elephant trainer, so you can definitely tell that the corniness is genuine, but the excessive use of exclamation points was a little cringe-worthy. Also? There's a poem at the very end about Modoc the elephant written by the author and it's not so good. I also started to get a rash from all the rants about nature and the wisdom of nature and becoming one with the thinking of the elephants.

Exclamation points and nature rants aside - the story was definitely captivating. The fact that it was true made it much more entertaining and I liked the fact that you got to follow the story from Germany, to India to various locations in the US. And it's possible that I did cry for like one second at the end.

I think I'll start Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett tonight.

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