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Father of Lions

One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo

by Louise Callaghan

Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan X
Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 400 pages

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  • Carole C. (Newtown Square, PA)
    Father of Lions
    As an animal lover, I really enjoyed this book. I think it would appeal to a larger audience though. It's not just an animal story. It also tells the story of what it's like living in Iraq under ISIS control. Louise Callaghan shares the true story of a man named Abu Laith who lives among this devastation and horror. However, he shows us what strength and determination can accomplish even when things seem hopeless.

    This is a well written book that also seems to be very well researched. Instead of just giving us a grim story about ISIS' occupation in Iraq (which I'm not sure many would want to read on it's own), Callaghan gives us a very readable tale that shows the humanity of people many of us don't understand.

    I think this book would lead to some great discussions for a book club.
  • Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)
    Father of Lions
    Writing your first book is a daunting undertaking. Consider that this is a true story in the middle of a religious war where humanity is at the bottom of the list. Throw in the determination of one man who, foregoing personal and familial safety, is determined to save whatever animals are still alive at the Mosal Zoo and you have an unforgettable story of faith, kindness and inner strength.

    Louise Callaghan has produced a narrative of immeasurable courage, insight and love. "Father of Lions" is more than one book. There is the story of the ISIS occupation and atrocities that happened in Mosul, a story that you don't get in an evening news expose. You have within that narrative two families struggling to just survive and the story within those two families of one man's love of animals and determination to save those still alive.

    Hard to believe? Please put this book on your list of "to read" to experience what possibilities we can all be capable of in the face of destruction. Bravo Louise for writing harsh realities yet allowing a small spark of hope to take hold, to make sure that we all understand that although atrocities are what is publicized, there are still humanitarian individuals, in this case animal advocates, who desperately believe in dignity and "if people cared for animals, they should care for humans, and if they cared for humans, they should care for animals. Kindness should not be divided."
  • Lil C. (Chestertown, NY)
    Things we do not know...
    As I started each chapter, I shook my head in disbelief. The world Abu Laith lives in is frighteningly complicated. Rules change with each new invasion, yet Abu Laith remains true to his passion...save the animals. I will continue to fear for the lives of humans and animals in this unpredictable part of the world...Mosul. My eyes are wide opened!
  • Emily C. (Naples, FL)
    Much More Than A Story About Animals
    I selected to review this title because I am a fan of animals. I hold to Abu Laith's belief that, "Within every living being...there was a personality, a life with needs and likes and things they hated".However, journalist Louise Callaghan has written a book that is so much more.

    In addition to detailing how Abu Laith, known as the Father of Lions, tended the animals in the Mosul Zoo, where his own lion Zombie lived, she has written a detailed account of the horrors and perils of life in an ISIS-controlled corner of Iraq.

    With bombs and mortar shells pounding the neighborhood, with the scarcity of food and other living essentials, Abu Laith put his own life in danger to save the few remaining animals in the heavily attacked Mosul Zoo. When someone asked him why he didn't kill the zoo animals for meat for his family, Abu Laith responded, "You don't eat animals who have earned your respect. We all went hungry to keep them alive. That's what respect is".

    This is a book that inspires and demonstrates that respect for life, love, and devotion to human life exists in the midst of a hate-filled nightmare.
  • Diane S. (Batavia, IL)
    Father of lions
    What an absolutely incredible story. A true story full of heart, living under ISIS, war, hope and those who care, even putting themselves in danger for a few helpless animals.

    Mosul was once a vibrant city, a city of families, where a young girl could play hop scotch in front of her house. All this changes when ISIS arrives. Soon many are thrown out of their houses, others hide in their houses, and public execution become a daily event. What food there is available is expensive and many do not have enough to eat.

    A man, a wonderful man Abu Laith, has nursed a young lion cub, feeding him from a bottle, trying to take care of Zombie as he was named and the other animals. Though his house is next to the zoo, he is a wanted man, and so he watches from his roof. His animals are starving and he does the best he can to keep them safe, but it is not enough. By, the time the Americans arrive, only few animals are left and they are in terrible shape. What happens next is both wonderful and frustrating.

    There is humor, Abu Laith is a man who refuses to give in to war, who is determined to find a way. Human perseverance and the human spirit, people who care. A few doctors who risk their own lives, the same group that saved the animals in Baghdad, come with hope and advice. A story I won't soon forget, because sometimes when something seems impossible, the impossible can sometimes happen.

    "It was too much. Months of bear starvation, a bear cub dead, and now this insult. Abu Laith, with tears still in his eyes, burst into a blank fury. "Why didn't we eat them?" he yelled. "You don't eat animals who have earned your respect. We all went by try to keep them alive. That's what respect is."
  • Barbara E. (Rockville, MD)
    Father of Lions
    This is a fascinating and sobering tale of life under Isis in Mosul and one man's devotion to animals. It is populated with intriguing characters who are sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, but always human. Parts of the book are especially harrowing when Isis takes control and it is especially illuminating on the effect on ordinary citizen's lives. This book is well-written and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves animals, cares about their welfare, and has an interest in the devastation wrecked by Isis.
  • Paula K. (Champaign, IL)
    A Rich Portrait of Life Under A Siege
    Louise Callaghan has written an excellent and very readable book that, while focusing for the most part Abu Laith and his efforts to protect the animals of the Mosul Zoo during the long ISIS occupation, is so much more than a portrait of how ordinary citizens coped during that time. Like the caged animals, Moslawnis primarily were confined to their homes, whether by edict or choice. Women, especially those who were not young children or old, were vulnerable to the whims of the invaders, in spite of having to cover every part of their bodies except their eyes. Callaghan draws in her readers so that we experience the hardships, the tensions, and the quiet courage of people who could have been us. Father of Lions will speak to a wide range of readers, and will continue to haunt me.
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