Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Review - Wild Life by Keena Roberts

Wild Life: Dispatches from a Childhood of Baboons and Button-Downs by Keena Roberts
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Date Read: November 11, 2019
Length: 352 pages
Source: Publisher
★★★★☆
Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight meets Mean Girls in this funny, insightful fish-out-of-water memoir about a young girl coming of age half in a "baboon camp" in Botswana, half in a ritzy Philadelphia suburb.

Keena Roberts split her adolescence between the wilds of an island camp in Botswana and the even more treacherous halls of an elite Philadelphia private school. In Africa, she slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, and lived each day alongside the baboon colony her parents were studying. She could wield a spear as easily as a pencil, and it wasn't unusual to be chased by lions or elephants on any given day. But for the months of the year when her family lived in the United States, this brave kid from the bush was cowed by the far more treacherous landscape of the preppy, private school social hierarchy.

Most girls Keena's age didn't spend their days changing truck tires, baking their own bread, or running from elephants as they tried to do their schoolwork. They also didn't carve bird whistles from palm nuts or nearly knock themselves unconscious trying to make homemade palm wine. But Keena's parents were famous primatologists who shuttled her and her sister between Philadelphia and Botswana every six months. Dreamer, reader, and adventurer, she was always far more comfortable avoiding lions and hippopotamuses than she was dealing with spoiled middle-school field hockey players.

In Keena's funny, tender memoir, Wild Life, Africa bleeds into America and vice versa, each culture amplifying the other. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Wild Life is ultimately the story of a daring but sensitive young girl desperately trying to figure out if there's any place where she truly fits in.
My Review

I really enjoyed this book!  If you follow my reviews, you probably already know that my taste in books is pretty eclectic.  While I am willing to read anything that sounds interesting, I don't read a lot of memoirs because they rarely appeal to me.  I have zero desire to read about celebrities which eliminates a lot of memoirs.  A story about a normal person doing extraordinary things is exactly the kind of thing I can get into so I went with my gut and gave this book a try and I am so glad that I did.  Once I started reading this book, I didn't want to stop and ended up reading the whole book in a single day.

Keena's childhood was quite unique.  Her parents studied animals in their own environment and took the whole family with them.  She spent the first few years of her life in Kenya but most of her childhood was split between Botswana and Philadelphia.  While in Baboon Camp in Botswana, Keena and her family lived in tents and had to watch out for lions, elephants, and buffalo.  While in school, she had to deal with kids who liked being mean to anyone who was a little different.  From her descriptions, I would have preferred life with the lions over going to high school as she did.

I loved getting to know Keena through her stories.  There were times that I worried about her and feared that she would get hurt.  I sympathized with her when she struggled to fit in at school.  I was a little jealous of her when she described the days that she would spend the day in a tree reading while at camp.  I was amazed by her ability to think clearly in highly stressful situations.  The descriptions in the book are very well done and I felt like I had a good idea of what life was like at camp.   I loved that there were a few photos scattered throughout the book to help illustrate some of the things discussed in the book.

I would recommend this book to others.  I found this book to be very entertaining and I feel like I learned a few things in the process.  I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Keena Roberts in the future.

I received a review copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing.
About the Author

Keena Roberts graduated from Harvard with a degree in psychology and later earned a dual master's from Johns Hopkins University in international public health and development economics. She has worked for government, nongovernment, and private contractors in the field of public health, focusing specifically on HIV/AIDS. Wild Life is her first book.

20 comments:

  1. It's true that it looks different and at the same time that's why it's intriguing as well

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  2. I think this type of book sounds pretty interesting-it's the kind of thing I'd read if I had a smaller TBR and more time!

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  3. I agree, high school is definitely more dangerous than the jungle

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  4. I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds exactly like something I’d read. It reminds me of Still Points North. That’s a memoir about a girl growing up in Baltimore and in remote Alaska.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. What a diverse upbringing she had! And isn’t it funny (and kind of pitiful) that navigating high school is more perilous than a baboon colony?!

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  6. i feel like you do about memoirs. love that cover and tagline and it looks like somethingi would enjoy too. i currently have michelle obama's on hold at the library.
    sherry @ fundinmental

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  7. I love when I just can't seem to put a book down! Glad you enjoyed this one!

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  8. I like this sort of unique world view and the contrast of two lifestyles. I read all the books by Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas on primate study. But those are animal focused not really people focused. Fantastic review! I'm glad this was so enjoyable for you. Anne - Books of My Heart

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  9. Glad to hear you liked it. It's a new one for me. Not sure it's the right fit for me but it does sound interesting.

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  10. I feel the same way about memoirs, but I would also be interested in this one b/c of her life experiences as a child growing up in two vastly different cultures.

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  11. I feel the same way but once in a while a gem pops up and really surprises you. Glad this one grabbed your attention.

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  12. I am not a big non-fiction reader, but those are some interesting circumstances Roberts was in.

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  13. I am not keen on memoirs either, but this does sound interesting.

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  14. I'm not interested in celebrity memoirs either, but a story like this one is unusual and sounds like something I'd probably like.

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  15. Ah yes, a lot of memoirs seem to be celebrity ones, so I am glad you could find one that is your type. I actually don't really like books which feature animals a lot for some reason, so I don't think this is one for me. But I am glad you enjoyed it! And it's perfect for Nonfiction November!

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  16. Totally reminds me of a scene in Mean Girls where Katy compared the high school cafeteria to a water hole in the African desert. Lol.

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  17. This sounds absolutely fascinating. I think I'd take baboon camp over high school any day!

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  18. I am just looking at the cover, isn't the hippo the most dangerous animal in Africa?

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  19. What an amazing childhood Keena must have had! I love the sound of this memoir :-)

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  20. This sounds like the kind of memoir I would enjoy too. I am glad you enjoyed this one so much!

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