Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review: Hannah's Dream

Summary: An elephant never forgets . . . but can she dream?

For forty-one years, Samson Brown has been caring for Hannah, the lone elephant at the down-at-the-heels Max L. Biedelman Zoo. Having vowed not to retire until an equally loving and devoted caretaker is found to replace him, Sam rejoices when smart, compassionate Neva Wilson is hired as the new elephant keeper. But Neva quickly discovers what Sam already knows: that despite their loving care, Hannah is isolated from other elephants and her feet are nearly ruined from standing on hard concrete all day. Using her contacts in the zookeeping world, Neva and Sam hatch a plan to send Hannah to an elephant sanctuary—just as the zoo's angry, unhappy director launches an aggressive revitalization campaign that spotlights Hannah as the star attraction, inextricably tying Hannah's future to the fate of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo.

A charming, poignant, and captivating novel certain to enthrall readers of Water for Elephants, Diane Hammond's Hannah's Dream is a beautifully told tale rich in heart, humor, and intelligence. -- Harper Collins

When Diane Hammond author of HANNAH'S DREAM contacted me about reading her book, the title of her e-mail read "An Elephant Love Story." I have to admit that I was intrigued, but I wasn't sure how a book could be about an elephant and her keeper could really be called "a love story." Well after devouring this book, I agree that it is the perfect description because HANNAH'S DREAM was above all else "a love story." This book is one of my favorite books of 2008 -- I absolutely adored it!

I think Ms. Hammond did a marvelous job with the characters in this story. Although this book did have many characters, I really think I got to know (and understand) almost all of them -- even the "bad guy" character. My book club would laugh because I'm always pretty critical of characters and their actions; however, there were just so many incredible (and likable) characters in this story. Sam and Hannah were my two favorite characters, but I also really liked Neva, the new zookeeper, and Truman, an office worker at the zoo. While these characters acted more in a supporting role to the story, I still felt like they were very well developed. In addition, Sam's wife Corinna was a terrific, somewhat complex character who had lost all faith in God after the loss of her daughter. Finally, one other character worth mentioning was Max Biedelman the original zoo owner. Max appeared in this story by way of Sam's flashbacks. She was quite an interesting character and way ahead of her time.

I think what I loved the most about this book was how the author chose to portray so many of the relationships in this story. It goes without saying that Sam and Hannah the elephant had a beautiful friendship, and I loved that seeing inside their symbiotic relationship. Another wonderful relationship was between Sam and his wife Corinna. Even though they had faced the awful loss of their daughter, they still managed to have a beautiful marriage -- one filled with mutual respect and admiration. Their loss was the reason that Sam (and Corinna) developed their relationship with Hannah -- in essence, Hannah became their child. I also liked seeing the relationship between Truman and Neva start to bloom. There were just so many examples of love between people (and animals) within the pages of this book.

I can't remember the last time an ending of a book touched me like this one did. I was reading this book while my daughter was at school and my son was napping. I sat on my couch and just sobbed! I mean mascara was running down my face. You know -- that ugly cry! And, I definitely don't want to scare you away by making you think the book was tragically sad. In actuality HANNAH'S DREAM is a beautiful story, very uplifting and also filled with some humorous moments, but I cried all the same. I am going to warn you that this book is a tear-jerker; and evidently I'm not alone. Ms. Hammond told me that the criers are outnumbering the stoics by a 10-1 ratio.

Overall, this book was about love -- love between a man and an elephant, love between a husband and wife, love between a man and a woman, and love between fathers and sons. In addition, I thought this book was about learning how to love and accept yourself. It's hard to argue with messages like that, but I also enjoyed how the author showed what the power of love is capable of accomplishing. I found it very uplifting in this book that when people joined forces in the name of love and friendship, they could do anything.

In case you were wondering, I'm not the only one who thinks HANNAH'S DREAM is a marvelous book. The novel is an Indie Next Notable Pick for October, and it received a starred review in Booklist. Booklist declared that HANNAH'S DREAM is: “Irresistibly touching, delectably uplifting, Hammond’s understated yet gargantuan tale of devotion and commitment poignantly proves that love does indeed come in all shapes and sizes.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Ms. Hammond is a wonderful writer. Not only did she write a beautiful story, but she also created some characters that are very, very special. HANNAH'S DREAM is the first novel that I've read by Ms. Hammond, but I think I'm going to have to read her first two -- GOING TO BEND and HOMESICK CREEK. Both of these novels are critically acclaimed too! In addition to being a writer, Ms. Hammond has a very interesting bio. If you'd like you learn a little more about Ms. Hammond, there is a video interview with her here.

I would love for my book club to read HANNAH'S DREAM for a future book club pick. I think this book appeals to a huge audience; and I'm pretty sure that a lot of book clubs will be reading it in the near future. If you'd like to read an excerpt of the book, click here. There is also a terrific reading guide available. I don't think your book club will be lacking for things to talk about. There are so many themes running through this novel including love, forgiveness, friendship, commitment, dreams, hope, etc. which are just perfect for a heart-to-heart discussion. And if you really want a memorable book club meeting, Ms. Hammond makes herself available for author chats!

Make sure you visit tomorrow because Ms. Hammond will be visiting Booking Mama with her own guest post. And, there might also be something else worth stopping for!

Also reviewed at:
5 Minutes for Books

8 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I'm glad to see you liked this book, because it's in my TBR pile.

Michele said...

You made me fall in love with this book and I haven't even read it! Great review. And I need these tear jerkers every once in awhile. It's cleansing!

Holly said...

Now I want to read it even more!

Red lady-Bonnie said...

Julie,

What great timing..I heard part of the authors interview this morning on the Diane Rehm show! It was very interesting and it sounds like a wonderful story. I definitely want to read this book! What a great review...I'll be back for your interview with Diane!

Amy said...

This looks fantastic, thanks for the wonderful as always review!

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

I also think it would be a great book review book. I loved this book. My review is here:

http://www.5minutesforbooks.com/318/hannahs-dream/

Anna said...

What a great review! If a book can move me to cry, especially since I do most of my reading on the train, then it's definitely a good book. I'll have to give this one a try!

--Anna
http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com

Sandra said...

Good review. Another book I loved as well. My thoughts on the story are here:

http://freshinkbooks.blogspot.com/2009/01/tss-books-read-this-week_18.html