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Reader reviews and comments on Father of Lions, plus links to write your own review.

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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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Father of Lions
Sad story about the effects of a brutal war (ISIS) on families & the zoo animals. Abu Laith was obsessed with trying to keep the animals alive, even at the expense of the safety of himself & his own family. The beginning of the book was a bit hard to get into & the names difficult to keep straight but the List of characters was a great resource. The ending had you on the edge of your seat wondering what would happen.
Erin J. (Milwaukie, OR)

Survival in a war zone doesn't come easily
Father of Lions is a fascinating glimpse into life in Mosul before, during, and after ISIS (Daesh) control. Until the last quarter of the book or so, it focused far less on the zoo and the few animals struggling to survive than it did on the humans, however. I hadn't expected this, so 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. Her pacing intensifies throughout, although sometimes the timeline gets a bit confusing with seasons apparently passing during the span of days. For a Western reader many thousands of miles from the fighting, however, Callaghan's portrayal brings the conflict down to a comprehensible human (and feline/ursine) level. It should appeal to anyone interested in either animal welfare or the fight against ISIS.
Gayle C. (Harris, MN)

Living in a war zone
A tough read for me, not just because of the animals and what happened to them. The story about the people and living in a war zone controlled by brutal and insane people -- one army of them after another -- was eye-opening and awful. The fact that the story was told in a factual way that almost made it seem like the backstory to the zoo and not intended to sound horrifying only made me understand better how life could be lived under those conditions. The risks people must take to eat, live, protect family, and protect what's important to them is wrenching and inspiring.
Power Reviewer
Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)

Not a typical story—
This book has a story that is not only informative but interesting and has been well written. The research is evident. I had no problems understanding this is a true story. It confirmed the frightening times those who worked with the Father of Lions had while saving the zoo animals. The character listing was appreciated since the names were so unfamiliar. Learning about the region gave me a better knowledge of the citizens of the Middle East. I liked the book and found there was often humor. I think most anyone can enjoy it.
Gloria F. (York, PA)

A great read for lovers of animals and current events
Thank you, Louise Callaghan, for preserving the story of Abu Laith in "Father of Lions: One Man's Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo." 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. But this story is about more than animals. It's also about how the people who lived in Mosul endured the fighting and destruction of their city. It gives the reader a much-needed prospective on life in a war zone.
Power Reviewer
Donna W. (Wauwatosa, WI)

Father of Lions
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.

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. The book's main focus was on saving the Mosul zoo and it's animals, and the telling of this event led to a moving and satisfying conclusion.
Susanna K. (Willow Street, PA)

This title was captivating - a Zoo in Mosul being saved! Very catchy and inviting to a reader who loves zoos and wondered how it was saved in a place that was decidedly a war zone! The pages that followed were an immersion in the horrors of the Iraqi-Islamic State confrontation centered in this city. How the people tried to protect themselves from the rules Isis enforced was beyond comprehension. During all this chaos and fear, one man persevered trying to save his beloved animals. At times you will be cheering, at others holding your breath. All in all it is a good read!
Valerie C. (Chico, CA)

Good, but the foreign names are hard to follow at first
I did not find this book terribly engaging. It is well written and researched.

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