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The Menagerie: A Zoo Story, was one of the most original pieces that I have read, because of author J. Douglas Porter’s way of storytelling. The narration was able to intertwine multiple mysteries into a history lesson about a fictitious zoo. The author very comfortably switches between time periods, making seamless transitions between present day to the early 1900’s. As readers, we have the opportunity to see the idea of a zoo come into fruition and watch it as it evolves over time.
I was originally worried that this story would come off as a tedious history lesson, but I could not have been more wrong. Porter created an excellent cast of characters in multiple time periods, to keep the reader interested. The cast comes into contact with very exotic animals, which proves to be exciting and dangerous. The reader hears tales of wrestling bears, venomous snakes and killer elephants. The only thing more dangerous than the animals, is the politics surrounding the park. This park’s history is rife with shady deal making, backstabbing and of course murder.
Though I was blown away by many aspects of the story, some parts are little slow. It’s apparent that Porter knows a great deal about the zoological industry, because he spends a lot of time talking about routine zoo maintenance. Though it is very educational, it was boring to read about a character cleaning an exhibit. I also believed that the mysteries surrounding the zoo were revealed very anticlimactically, showing that they were not the main focus of the story. I understand that this story is not a strict mystery novel, but it would have been great to see a little more suspense.
Porter has found a way to remind us, that history is nothing but a story. In the case of the Dotson Park Zoo, its life story is filled with feats, follies, innovation and excitement. For its unique brand of storytelling, I give this title 3 out of 4 stars. This story changed how I view zoos and has given me a new found respect for the work that goes on to keep them afloat.
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