This book is an autobiography of Ellie Laks, with an emphasis on her connection to animals from a young age and how that connection carries her through the hard times in life. Animals brought her peace and companionship when she felt alone as a child, and they grounded her as an adult, balancing out a life that could easily spiral out of control.
One aspect of her connection with animals that really stands out is her ability to simply ask, in English, for what she needs from them. When Zena the goat’s babies were nearly dying, Ellie tried to put them into a towel-lined carrier. Zena was to go into a larger crate, however, she wasn’t having any of it. Finally, Ellie blurted out loud, “‘Zena, please, please. Your babies are going to die,’” (Laks 73). She went onto explain that she wanted to take the babies to the vet, and miraculously, Zena cooperated. Time and time again, Ellie proves that by asking these animals for their cooperation, she can effectively communicate with them.
Even from a young age, Ellie knew that one day her life would be full of happy animals. Throughout her childhood, Ellie’s animal friends were “disappearing” as her parents grew tired of them. In her rage, Ellie shouted “You’ll see. When I grow up I’ll have a huge place full of animals I’ll show the world how beautiful they are!” (Laks 8). She didn’t realize it was happening, but as Ellie kept bringing in emotionally and physically wounded animals to her home, she was making her dreams a reality.
Throughout the book, you know that this was Ellie’s calling. She was meant to start the Gentle Barn. Though everything certainly does not go smoothly for her, everything ultimately works out. This is a life lesson that carries meaning in all our endeavors, whether we’re starting an animal sanctuary or working on your own projects, Ellie’s autobiography will inspire you to live out your dreams.
If you’ve ever felt a strong connection to animals or if you’re in need of a reminder of why you’re an activist in the first place, then you need this book.
Rachel Curit is a recent graduate of the University of Maine. You can find her writing at One Green Planet and her own site, The Judgmental Vegan.