It’s a normal day at the zoo until it’s shots ring out and there are bodies on the ground and suddenly its a matter of life and death and staying hidden is the only way to make it to tomorrow. Gin Phillip’s writing in this book is stellar, the third person limited point of view is brilliant, the characterization is strong, and I absolutely devoured this book. Really, I felt like I had to. The book takes place over the course of several hours, and it felt strange to stretch my reading experience out over the course of an entire day. Part of the brilliance of this novel is how condensed and tense it feels and how every minute counts.
To summarize the pretty clear-cut plot, Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln are in the zoo as it’s about to closed, headed for the exit, when shots ring out and Joan sees bodies fall. It’s a split second decision, and she decides to hide. She and Lincoln post up in an empty porcupine exhibit and everything becomes more clear as she hears the voice of the shooters, two men, but you later find out that there’s more to the story than these two men. The relationship between Joan and Lincoln, and what Joan will do for Lincoln (hint: anything) is what drives this novel, but you do get to meet other characters trapped inside the zoo and doing the trapping. Yes, this novel does give chapters with the point of view centered around one of the shooters, but it’s handled well and it’s not about making you feel bad for him or side with him. It’s more about giving insight into what is happening and why, which I think works well.
I really enjoyed this book, and I devoured it in less than 24 hours. I have no regrets. This was a Book of the Month choice several months ago that I just had to get, and it’s going down as one of the most concise, precise books I’ve ever read. Yes, you get some background and outside world in memories and thoughts, but it begins and ends in the zoo. You never leave the zoo as a reader, which works wonderfully because Joan and Lincoln don’t leave the zoo. You’re as trapped as they are. I’m already looking forward to Phillips’ next book.