Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
This was my book club’s pick for July! I was talking with our hostess and said “look at this book!” To my surprise, she had already read it! Not only that, but her husband used to live in the town where this book takes place! Of course she decided that she would pick it to read at book club!
Welcome to Royal, NE with a population of about…80 folks. The town wasn’t really much to look at, with a bunch of abandoned buildings and dirt roads. Although what it did have, was it’s own Zoo and for nearly 20 years! This made for an interesting tourist attraction for the area, although eventually things took a turn for the worse. This is where our story is made, in the tragedy of Zoo Nebraska.
It all began with a vision from Dick Haskin, who was studying to be a primatologist. He is struggling with the idea of leaving his current job and the chimpanzee he has trained, for a chance to go to Rwanda and work with primatologist Dian Fossey. Unfortunately, her death dissolves any chances of this dream to work on conservation. Dick’s devotion to primates didn’t fully die with her. He returns to his hometown with Reuben, an adolescent chimp, in the bed of a pickup truck and transformed a trailer home into the Midwest Primate Center. As the tourist trade multiplied, so did the inhabitants of what would become Zoo Nebraska, boosting the economy in Royal and became the source of a power struggle that would lead to the tragic implosion of Dick Haskin’s dream again.
Later on in the story, things takes a turn for the worse when an enclosure is left unlocked and several chimpanzees escape. With Dick Haskin out of the picture at this point, all hell breaks loose at the Midwest Primate Center. If there is one thing you need to know about chimpanzees, it’s that they are extremely strong. At one point in the story, a chimp grabs a workers leg and snaps it, like it was a twig. So you can imagine the chaos that is exploding. Now, this is a very small town in Nebraska mind you and certain force is brought out against the chimps to protect the visitors and on lookers. Unfortunately, the result ends in the death of one chimp in particular that was dear to Dick Haskin.
The only reason I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, was there were points in the book that I actually skipped over because the author would sort of ramble on about things that were irrelevant to the story. I would recommend this book, although be prepared as it really isn’t a happy story, but one that did need to be told.
Available on Amazon – Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream by Carson Vaughan