In “We Bought a Zoo”, Benjamin Mee tells the story of how his family came to buy the Dartmoor Zoological Park and the great lengths it took to revitalize the zoo and prepare it for opening day. After his father dies, his 76 year old mother needs to sell their old house and eventually the family decides to purchase a zoo with the money. Mee, who writes DIY magazine articles, along with his mother, wife and two children move in and immediately start working on renovating this zoo in hopes of it someday turning a profit. Between restoring the bedraggled zoo, complete with decaying buildings, managing a ragtag group of animals as well as an eclectic staff and a reputation that had been quickly going to the wolves, Mee and his family are also struggling with day to day family life. Benjamin’s wife Katherine gets saddled with a diagnosis of terminal glioblastoma. Mee navigates the readers through the practical aspects of zoo life, an occasionally emotional staff, their money problems and the treatment for and eventual death of Katherine.
I could never get engaged in this book. I was bogged down with the trivial and unnecessary details of day to day zoo maintenance. Mee tends to meander with too-long explanations for one-sentence points, and the awe he feels about each individual animal is repetitive. Coupled with Britishisms that are never explained and a curious lack of varied wild animal stories it was easy for me to put the book down and forget about it for a while. Even though I liked Katherine, I wasn’t too upset when she died and after her death Mee devotes almost the entire book to the zoo’s problems. He barely mentions his two young children coping with the loss of their mother or how he deals with her death (he mentions crying al lot and taking solace in the fact that other people have worse problems). The book is just devoid of any real interesting events or twists and turns, committing the worst crime that a book could: being boring. The only thing I felt when I finished the book was relief that it was finally over.