Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book #2: Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer

This book was yet another gift from my friend @kayakgal. (What can I say? She's awesome and sends me great books I wouldn't otherwise know about!) With the book she included a note that it was her favorite non-fiction book so I was very intrigued. A coincidence about her sending me this particular book is that I love elephants. I have collected them since childhood and they have always been my favorite zoo animal.

"Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived" by Ralph Helfer starts out on the day that both Modoc and her lifetime friend and handler, Bram Gunterstein, were born. They were soul-mates and had a special connection from that day forward. They grew up together and shared a silent language which allowed Bram great success in training her differently than what was typically done in the early part of the 20th century.

The book tells tales that are, at times, unbelievable. There is the sale of the circus Modoc belongs to and the doomed ship that Bram stows away on to be with her. There is the time spent with the maharajah and his mysterious white elephant. The teak forest where the war tears everything apart. The New York circus where Modoc becomes a star. The author explains at the beginning of the book that it is a true story, pieced together as well as possible, from his research and what he has been told. He admits to a little "poetic license" but states that as far as he can tell, it is all true.

It reads very much like a novel and the stories are so far-fetched that I found myself oftentimes thinking there was no way any of this could have possibly happened. I decided at one point to quit doubting and just believe and enjoy the story. Once I did that, I found myself getting lost in the book. I hoped that every struggle would be the last and they would live happily ever after, a man and his elephant.

I would say to any reader of "Modoc" that you need to keep an open mind and believe that it all happened just as Mr. Helfer says it did. Believe that this elephant really was that special.

I do.

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