I don't like zoos. Even as a kid I realized that it was wrong to deprive animals of their natural habitat. Seeing a cheetah with little to no ability to run, or a polar bear living in climates where temperatures can get up to 100 degrees just always felt inherently wrong. Trapping wild animals and holding them captive for entertainment purposes seems not fair or justified.
And, while I don't like zoos, I do believe that most zookeepers love their animals and do everything they can to keep them happy, healthy and content. Meg Yancy, the central character in The Dragon Keeper, is no exception. In fact, she just may be too attached to Jata, the Komodo Dragon she tends to at the fictional Zoo of America.
When Jata gives birth to three hatchlings, a seemingly impossible event given Jata has never mated with a male, Yancy becomes obsessed with the care of Jata and her hatchlings. Though romance and drama sometimes divert Yancy's attention she remains foremost committed to the dragon and her hatchlings. Through her relationships with her boyfriend, her Father, her coworkers, the zoo's veterinarian who cares more for his own career than the animals and briefly, the media, we see that Yancy is far more skilled in relating to animals than to other human beings.
Through her experience of caring for Jata and her hatchlings, Yancy learns that in life, as with wild animals, not all things can be controlled. This is a skillfully, well researched story that will keep your attention from the very first page. The book will entertain you, but more importantly make you question the ethics of keeping animals in captivity.
"Every captive life is a deprived life."
A stunning first novel by Mindy Mejia, this is well worth the read and would make for some interesting book club discussion.