Father of Lions: One Man’s Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo

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A tame lion cub, a city under lockdown, and a community invaded by terrorists. This hardly sounds like a tale about a zoo. But read on…Louise Callaghan’s account of the jihadists who take over the city of Mosul in Iraq is compelling. The title, Father of Lions, veils the purpose of the book: to relate the effect of the destructive jihadist presence from the perspective of a single family.

Abu Laith, co-hero in the drama, is an exuberant middle-aged extrovert with a passion for animals fueled by the National Geographic television channel. He is rebellious, unused to being bossed around or imprisoned in his home with his wife and close to a dozen raucous children underfoot. As the world around him collapses, his thoughts reach constantly to Zombie, his lion cub, unsafely caged and underfed on the other side of the city, his other animals savaging and devouring each other.

At first, when the Americans arrive to liberate the city, their bombing and shooting prolongs the peril. But then, almost magically, a second hero arrives. Dr. Amir is an Egyptian veterinarian whose passion for animals is geographically more extensive and more practical than Abu Laith’s. Together they must spirit Zombie to safety across the border, a mission fraught with danger.

To the very end the story is grim, but the author, a British journalist, has mitigated the horror with frequent dabs of black humor making the unreadable and unthinkable totally compelling.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 400 pages
Publisher Forge Books
Publish Date 2020-01-14
ISBN 9781250248947
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue April 2020
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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