Publication Date: 15th July 2018
I’d seen a fair bit of conversation about this one on the socials and had half an eye on it as you do, floating around in my book addled brain!
When I was asked to join in the blog tour I went back and had a look at the blurb and had to think twice about the ‘animal’ factor. I’m not a huge fan of books with animals in BUT I read some of the reviews for this beaut of a book and just knew that the central relationship would grip me and hold me. I’m so glad I didn’t let my dislike of ‘animal’ books put me off this gem.
So anyway, the point of all that waffle was, I signed up!
So what do we have here?
The story starts with Ben just arriving in Zimbabwe to volunteer at a Lion sanctuary, helping to rear and release lions into the wild. This is a dream he has always had and he promised his mother before she died that he would fulfil it. However it quickly becomes apparent that Ben is also using this excursion as a way to escape something that is going on in his personal life at home. There is clearly an issue with his father and another relationship with someone who he obviously desperately misses.
This is the point that we find out about Andrew. Ben and Andrew meet in a library whilst Ben is studying and Andrew is working on his children’s book, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. They keep on bumping into each other in a series of coincidences and quickly develop a romantic relationship. Ben struggles with the relationship due to feeling that his father would be predjudiced about his sexuality, and as such he hides himself and Andrew away. Andrew suffers from diabetes and when his health starts to deteriorate and tests are performed, the results have a massive impact on both his and Ben’s relationship and indeed their whole lives. It is at this point that the importance of family is brought to the forefront in both men’s lives.
This book has so many themes running through it. Sexuality, family ties, missed opportunities, unfulfilled dreams and wishes. Andrew has a silver box which he has posted his wishes into since being a child. He is very careful not to make outlandish wishes as he feels these will never come true. However he posts wishes which he feels stand half a chance at coming true. Not knowing that one day one of these wishes will have a massive irrevocable impact on his life.
There is so much heart in this book, so much raw emotion, its a real ‘lump in throat’ read. I did feel like I guessed what the twist in the tale would be but I didn’t guess how it would be revealed and what the far reaching impact would be. The relationships in this story are fascinating. Aside from the main central relationship between Ben and Andrew, I also enjoyed the exchanges between Ben and his Father Will, despite them being riddled with tension and bubbling under with animosity. If anything I felt like Will was a little misunderstood but could fully appreciate Ben’s mixed up feelings towards him.
I felt fully invested in this story from quite early on and I am hugely glad that I didn’t let the animal element put me off this book. I actually quite enjoyed the chapters based in Zimbabwe and learning about the lions. Another subject I wanted to google!
The sections of the book are split between Ben and Andrew (not alternate chapters though) but told in the third person. I must admit that I preferred Andrew’s voice. It was also nice that a small section was dedicated to Will, Ben’s father, and his perspective. Another nice touch were the extracts from Andrew’s children’s book heading up each chapter.
This book is emotionally charged and makes your heart ache. A real intuitive, beautiful story. Read it if you are feeling strong!
Thanks as always to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.
See you soon.
Bookish Chat xxx