BookBrowse Reviews Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan

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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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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 416 pages

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In Father of Lions, Louise Callaghan gives us a touching account of humanity in tumultuous times and one man's abiding love for animals.

Our readers have given high marks to Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan. Out of 21 reviewers, 18 rated the book 4 or 5 stars.

As many readers point out, Father of Lions isn't just a story about animal rescue, but also human survival.

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 (Diane T). As an animal lover, I really enjoyed this book. I think it would appeal to a larger audience, though as 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 (Carole C).

It seemed almost like reading a civilian survival story and its animal-rescue-themed sequel. Louise Callaghan has done an amazing job of evoking the tense, dusty waiting and mortar-driven hiding inherent in an urban battlefield (Erin J). 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 (Emily C).

Readers were impressed with Callaghan's deft blend of journalism and storytelling.

This book does not disappoint. Louise Callaghan did her homework and pieced together a true story that reads like a novel (Rene M). Louise Callaghan devoted a big chunk of her life to tracking down this true story and writing it. I, for one, am grateful. This journalistic masterpiece is detailed yet intriguing (Diane Y).

Some readers warned of grim subject matter, and some didn't always find the book engaging, even if they enjoyed it.

This story of human resilience, in the face of religious fanaticism, shows that survival in the worst circumstances is possible, if neither predictable nor perfect. The author impresses the grinding reality of war upon the reader, with a few positive results, but there is no fairy tale ending. The futility of much that the characters work to achieve makes this a disheartening tale (Paula B). I enjoyed the book. I had trouble getting into it, and never really formed an attachment to the main characters, but it told a riveting story (Donna W).

Overall, though, readers seemed to appreciate how much they were personally able to learn from even the bleaker parts of Father of Lions...

The backdrop of Iraq during ISIS' reign was horrifying. I now have a much better understanding of the impact of their inhumane tactics on the citizens (Diane Y). This was a very interesting book. As I started reading, I thought I would be reading a book devoted entirely to animals. Instead I was thrown into the horrors associated with the Iraqi war. I learned a lot about the history, traditions, and people of Iraq (Donna W).

...and ultimately, many fell in love with the heart and humanity of the story.

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 (Barbara E). It is wonderful to read how people who love animals can all come together to save them, especially during a conflict that puts their lives at risk (Gloria F). Louise Callaghan has produced a narrative of immeasurable courage, insight and love (Diane T).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2020, and has been updated for the April 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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