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Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream
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Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,050 ratings  ·  160 reviews

A moving true story of American struggle.

Royal, Nebraska, population eighty-one—where the church, high school, and post office each stand abandoned, monuments to a Great Plains town that never flourished. But for nearly twenty years, they had a zoo, seven acres that rose from local peculiarity to key tourist attraction to devastating tragedy. And it all began with one ma

Kindle Edition, 254 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by Little A
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,050 ratings  ·  160 reviews

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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Amazon Review For Kindle First!

Whew. I was going to write a big thing and then I wasn’t going to say anything. Now I’m going to try to piece together some thoughts.

First off; years ago I volunteered in a wildlife refuge. I met a wonderful friend there and we tried our best to do everything we could for the animals every day. The owner was off her rocker and we stayed as long as we could to help those wonderful animals. In the end, we had to leave and mos
Mar 12, 2019 added it
Shelves: dnf, nature-animals
Throwing in the towel at the 25% mark. I tried and tried, but I can't stay interested in this story. Yet another nonfiction book comprised of material that could have easily been covered in a magazine article.
Dee Arr
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
{Video Review: The Most Dangerous Book Review on the Internet! at}

This is a story of rural America, one that laments the passage of time that causes small towns to become even smaller as they struggle not to wink out of existence. It is also the story one man’s dream, a man ready to sacrifice everything to make it happen.

Author Carson Vaughan has created a work of literary journalism, spending years researching the people and history of the town of Royal, Nebraska. The
Whistlers Mom
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a carefully researched, beautifully written book about a place and an event that are both insignificant and universal. Royal, Nebraska is a dying prairie town. The school, post office, library, and Methodist church have closed their doors as the population declined. Young folks leave for more opportunities. The only ones left are those who are too old, too sick, or too odd to live elsewhere.

Everyone loves the idea of living in a small town, but few people understand the realities of livi
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-books, first-reads
This book had a range of emotions, but it mostly left you feeling sad and angry for what should've been stopped from happening and how woefully everything went wrong in this one small town.

I am sure none of us animal lovers haven't dreamed of having a zoo of our own. Thankfully, it stays just that, a dream, nothing more than a fantasy. But for one man, he grew his dream into owning first one chimp and it just grew from there. Though he was very unprepared for the upkeep, budget and time having
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have lived most of my life in Nebraska, and yet I do not remember hearing about this when it happened. Really, reading the description you would think it's fiction. The author gives excellent insight into small town (in this case extremely small town) life: the lack of privacy, the dwindling of businesses and population, the petty squabbles and grudges.

Dick Haskins heart was probably in the right place, but his lack of knowledge about anything other than the animals was staggering. How the zoo
Susie Davison
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just finished Zoo Nebraska. I don't usually read non-fiction but this one was about a small town in Nebraska so it piqued my interest - and I'm glad it did! I have lived in Nebraska most of my life and can't believe I didn't hear anything about this when it was happening! I had never heard of Royal, NE! I'm glad I read the book. It really spoke to me and made me want to keep reading. The author wrote in a way that made it hard to remember it wasn't, in fact, fiction, but unfortunately, it had ...more
Donna Bijas
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, own
Thought this book would be mostly a 2* affair. I disliked Dick who wanted to live with the apes, monkeys and gorillas, yet didn't want to take the time to get the degrees, put in the hours necessary in order for that to happen. Instead, he works with a primate, purchases property for a zoo in Royal, Nebraska where, again, he never learned about marketing, finance, the degree in which animals need to be cared for. His constant blame of others, and never taking into consideration his own attitudes ...more
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting story about one man's dream that briefly flowered then withered under the weight of small town personality politics and non-profit board miscues.

Dick Haskins dreamt of working with primates. That drive manifested itself into a small, scrappy zoo in his hometown of Royal, Nebraska.

Dick's desire burned so brightly, though, he drove himself to care for the animals and the zoo beyond the limits of human endurance. Without pay, without rest, and often without assistance, he persevered
Apr 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm giving this 3.5 stars only because I'm originally from Nebraska (I grew up 25 miles from the nearest town, population 310) and the author was from Broken Bow. I wanted to scream as I read the book because it highlighted several issues that frustrate me about many rural Nebraskans...well-intentioned but woefully uniformed, unwilling to listen and take advice from others who are considered "outsiders" and view education as something that is not always needed. The pipe dream of one guy who had ...more
Karna Converse
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-on-kindle
A story that delves into childhood dreams, community support, and small-town politics.

The townspeople and governing body of Royal, Nebraska (pop.81) never planned to open a zoo, but when local boy, Dick Haskin, decided to bring his childhood dream--working with primates--to the community, they supported him. From the mid-1980s to 2005, thousands visited Zoo Nebraska and the community came to view Haskin's first chimp, Reuben, as a valued member.

But, as journalist Vaughan eloquently shows, it tak
Catherine Boucher
It’s a 5 star story, but this book’s telling is clunky. I respect and admire Vaughan’s journalistic approach. He let the various players’ words and actions speak for themselves instead of inserting his own opinions into what happened. However, I struggled to keep all of the various people straight since many were mentioned only briefly and then often never again or many chapters later. The writing kept tripping me up. (Perhaps a lot of that has to do with me being a sleep-deprived mom with a 5-w ...more
Lisa Miller
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Too long

I’d give this 3.5 stars. It is deeply researched and the writing is quite readable. For me the main drawback is that there’s just too much of it. When you have a huge stack of information in front of you, all that hard work and time represented by it, it can be hard to know what to include. I read this in ebook format. If I’d held the hard copy book in my hand I might’ve realized what was happening sooner. As it was, I started wondering if I was getting close to the end and saw I was onl
Tiffany McElmeel
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Gossip at a local zoo

So this book was offered as my free book of the month. I like to step out of my traditional genres of reading and try something different. This was definitely a different read. Based on a true story in Nebraska, I’m not sure how I feel about this read. On one hand it was a strange, unbelievable story about one person starting a zoo. Then all the drama that followed. It was intriguing but I can’t say interesting. At times it felt like I was reading about the local gossip of a
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Well-researched and heartfelt

Though the author’s heated prose has a tendency to get in its own way, “Zoo Nebraska” is a taut tale about a small town, the inevitable dysfunction that arises when one man’s dream meets civic reality, and the ugly consequences caused by our need to connect with the natural world in ways that are ultimately destructive to the animals we profess to love. Meticulously researched and written with a full heart and gimlet eye, “Zoo Nebraska” is a fascinating look at the
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sad but fun story. Didn't know that it was a real thing. Glad I read it.

Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book . While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Goth Gone Grey
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, life-stories
A train wreck of a zoo and its heartbroken, passionate founder

Full disclosure: I contemplated not finishing this book, and a low rating early on. It's a difficult read - not due to the writing, which is concise and clear - but the subject matter. The proverbial train races off the tracks in the first few pages, then the author back tracks to the beginning.

I'm glad I continued reading; this book will stay with me for a long time.

Two strong themes weave their way through the narrative. One, most
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am not really interested in Nebraska, per se. However, this tale of the rise and demise of an odd little zoo in a tiny, forgotten town on the vast Great Plains spoke deeply to me. A well researched account, including perspectives from several angles and based on the facts, it also captures soulfully what it means to be part of a small town community, to have dreams that get aborted, diverted, or realigned; what it means to care about animals, to find solace and community with them in ways one ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Unless it is for school, I usually do not read nonfiction books, so this book was out of the norm for me. Since it was one of Amazon Kindle's First Read choices I decided I would give it a try, and overall I though that book was ok. While the focus of the book was on the zoo and the various blunders that led to its creation and downfall, it was also a story of small town America. The author put a lot of work into researching the town of Royal, where the zoo was located, and the people who were p ...more
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
There is so much about this book.

1) The founder of Zoo Nebraska when he was a young boy, reminds me so much of me. I wanted to be a veternarian and there were so many similarities. I took a different path, and the similarities ended, but I saw myself in him.

2) The book also brings together some of my love/unease with zoos. I love animals. I love going to zoos. I want to see the animals and just love being there. But, I also know that not all zoos are top- notch. And even the good ones have some
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. It was my March selection from Amazon Prime. It is certainly not the type of book I usually pick up, but it intrigued me more than any of other selections.

This could be Any Small Town, USA, I guess. The characters (who are real people) are all quirky in their own way. What makes them different is that they came together to create and support a zoo in "the middle of nowhere." It sounds implausible, and the story just gets even stranger as it goes a
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it

Published in April of 2019

Royal, Nebraska is a town of 81 people and an abandoned zoo. In 1987, Dick Haskin brought a chimpanzee named Reuben to his hometown in Nebraska in hopes of starting the Midwest Primate Center to continue the research of his slain hero, Dian Fossey.

But, the funds for the primate center never materialized. He wasn't interested in starting a zoo but, over time, he ended up with an odd collection of animals - tigers, wolves, llamas and more. Eventually, he accepte
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"'Historically, if one chimp gets out, somebody gets hurt. If two get out, somebody gets killed,' he says. 'And this time, there were four.'" This was a fascinating, true, and sad, sad, sad account of one man's childhood passion for chimps climbing to unlikely heights before descending into chaos. He established a zoo in a little town of less than 100 people in northeast Nebraska. Though passionate, his animal knowledge was self-taught and he had no business acumen. The town was adamant about ke ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I consider this a pop nonfiction book. I define "pop nonfiction" as a book based on a sensational real life event.

Something common to many pop nonfiction books is the presence of "Since the Beginning of Time" chapters. These are chapters that step away from the larger narrative and characters to go deep into the science or history behind the subject of the book. An example is A Kim Jong-Il Production, which is a terrific book about the North Korean capture of South Korean film makers. This book
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
Absolutely amazing tale of a kid in Nebraska who dreams all of his life to work in Africa researching chimpanzees or gorillas with the likes of Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey. But rather than coming true, his dream turns into a dream deferred and a cautionary tale about what happens when you are not really prepared for the task and gather a dysfunctional governing board around you as well.

Dick Haskin's dream begins in the 1960s, and is eventually shattered in the early 2000s when 4 chimps break loo
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to start their own private zoo!
This is a sad and frustrating book. And it is a first book for the author. I thank him for bringing the subject to light. But I found it difficult to get into the story. The second chapter felt totally disconnected from the first chapter. I was half way through the book and still deciding if I should continue since it was so difficult to follow the story. I should add that I hate books that start with the end of the story and then flash back to the beginnings. Basically that is what this author ...more
Rachel G
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I just finished reading “Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream” by Carson Vaughan.
If I had to describe this book with only one word, I would say ‘struggle’. The entire history of the zoo in Royal, Nebraska is defined by its struggles.
My family and I visited the zoo once in the early 2000s. It didn’t make much of an impression on me, as my memories are vague, but I do distinctly remember seeing the chimpanzees. Until reading this book, I was completely unaware about
Brandon Cronk
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
First thing is I did find the way the story was presented and the level of detail about all of the players involved to be excellent.

The problem I have with the book is the subtitle, "The Dismantling of an American Dream", makes it sound like the zoo was well executed and some unforeseen circumstance came about to mess it up and cause the whole thing to fall apart. I know it's hard to judge the actions of others without being there and dealing with it yourself but from the sounds of things this z
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 stars

Zoo Nebraska is a little long winded but extremely interesting story. I have lived in Nebraska most of my life and yet, I do not ever remember hearing about this zoo or the horror that happened on the last day.
This book is an interesting and fascinating look at one mans dream to work with primates and what happened when that dream went eschew.
I truly believe the ending could have been avoided had there been more oversight, better leadership and more money in place. Dick Haskins had a big
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