I was an English major in college, but not one of those high-falutin’ intellectuals looking for symbolism and political subcontexts on every page. I liked to read. I liked to write, so I majored in English and did a good bit of each in college.
I like books about people. No, not biographies, but books that invite his into the lives and hearts of people — ordinary or extraordinary. I’m drawn to stories — to characters — to themes of friendship, personal growth, internal or external struggles. I know that’s why memoir has quickly become my favorite genre. I enjoy a great character-driven novel in the same way (if not more).
Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond is this sort of novel. Hammond delicately deals with the human experiences of love, lack of love, loss, hope, duty, growing up and growing old.
And when I this is a character-driven novel, let me go one step further and say that this book is full of characters — Max Biedelman, a sort of androgynous woman who lived in the early twentieth century; Harriet, the director of the zoo which Max founded, who taps into the confidence and spirit of Max as she tries to find acceptance for herself and financial success for the zoo; Sam Brown, a man who has given his life and his heart to two women, his wife Corinna and the elephant Hannah.
Sam has spent the last forty-one years of life caring for Hannah, at the dying wish of Max Biedelman, but he is old and sick and needs to retire. He just can’t do it until he finds someone who will properly care for Hannah as he has done. Will that person be Neva, the new elephant keeper that Harriet has hired? None of the others have worked out, but Sam sees signs in the beginning that she just may be different.
This book reminded me a bit of another book dealing with an elephant (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which I enjoyed), and also Life of Pi, which delved a bit into the debates about zookeeping. However, this novel is not the result of an author trying to jump on the bandwagon of the popularity of books about animals (Marley and Me also comes to mind, though I haven’t read that one).
No, no, Diane Hammond has her own reasons for telling this story. Tomorrow in our Books on Screen column, the author will be writing about her work with the real whale upon whom the movie Free Willy was based and how it helped birth this novel (updated: here is a link to that column).
I loved this story, and if you enjoy stories such as I’ve described, I think you’ll enjoy it too.
We have three signed copies of Hannah’s Dream to give away. Please leave a comment if you’d like to win (U.S. addresses only), and we’ll announce the winners next Wednesday.
This giveaway is closed.
Managing Editor Jennifer Donovan is a contributing editor at 5 Minutes for Mom. She has been blogging at Snapshot for over two years. You’ll almost always find her holding either a book, a fork, a child’s hand, her laptop, or some combination therein.
This sounds really good.
Great review. It sounds like a terrific book. I blogged about the giveaway too.
Belinda Shaw says
This sounds like gread reading material!
Carol Lawrence says
I would like to win this book.
I would love to read this book. We just had two more baby elephants born at our zoo this summer. They are so cute!
mittens0831 AT aol DOT com
Kathy Scott says
Thanks for the chance.
david basile says
sounds like a good one
Janice Golden says
My sister in law was talking about getting this book the other day
Susan C says
I love elephants and would love to read this book!
Nicole C. says
Sounds like a great book!
sarah b says
sounds like a good book
DeeAnn S says
I’d like to read this book. Enter me please.
beth shepherd says
Thank you for having this! Sounds like an excellent read. Thank you!
veronica sandberg says
want to win this
Thank you for having this contest. I really appreciate it.
Rebecca Snodgrass says
Sounds like a great read.
Love this site. I just finished reading Water for Elephants and would really like to win this book. Thanks!
Cilfton Wade says
Did you intentionally use a derivative of your last name as the name of the character in this book?
Thanks for this great contest and prize. A book/books are the best prizes for they keep on giving!
Valerie Mabrey says
thanks for the contest
Please enter me — I am most eager to read this book! Thank you for the chance!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com
Count me in!
Jennifer Hedden says
kristi blackstone says
I’d love to win and read this, sounds great!
I’d like to win, looks great!
Mia J. says
I love to read and would love the opportunity to win this.
Susan Ledet says
I really enjoy reading your reviews.
Brent Dotson says
I would love to win this for my wife
Vicky Boackle says
i love to read.
Barbara Fox says
Sounds like a really good book!
kathy pease says
PLEASE COUNT ME IN ON THIS AWESOME GIVEAWAY 🙂
Kimberly V. says
This sounds like a very intersting read and I would very much love the opportunity to read it.
Thank you so very much for the giveaway and please thank Diane Hammond too.
my niece will love this
Gary Osborn says
Wooo Hooo Make me a winner!
I’d love to read it. I’m currently an English major in college, and I am always looking for recommendations from fellow English majors!
Sylvia Belle says
I would enjoy reading this book
Terra Heck says
I’d like to read this book.
It sounds like a really good book, please enter me, thank you.
Janet F says
I would love to win a copy.
Sharon Jones says
sounds great…please count me in. THANKS
I would love to read it!
Cassandra Janda says
Sounds like a great book–thanks!
Michele C says
Please enter me, this sounds really good. Thank you.
Lori Barnes says
I would love to win one of these books. I have always been fascinated with Elephants. I think this is gonna be a wonderful story. Please enter me. Thanks photoquest(at)bellsouth(dot)net
Julie Donahue says
Looks very interesting.
sounds like an excellent book, please enter me!
Sounds like a great book!
Cindy Ellis says
One could never have enough books
Lydia Wilson says
Thanks for the giveaway!