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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,696 ratings  ·  268 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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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,696 ratings  ·  268 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: nature-animals, dnf
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
May 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-unlimited
This was...interesting? I guess? I’m still not honestly sure what I listened to for 10 hours. A hodgepodge of facts bouncing around through the years possibly as it certainly wasn’t the most well thought out history if that’s what it’s meant to be. I almost DNFd this within the first 30% but somehow, somehow by the end I was rather invested. Not a complete waste of time though it could have been better spent on something with an actual storyline.
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 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
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: own, non-fiction
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
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
Donna Hines
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, netgalley
A well written and beautifully crafted idea that turned tragic for not only Dick Haskin's vision but for zoo lovers everywhere.
Royal Nebraska was the start of this vision. A vision that incorporated his love of primates after the death of a beloved friend in Rwanda.
As the tourist trade multiplied so too was his gamble that the town of Royal Nebraska (population 81) could also rise and accommodate these gorgeous chimpanzees.
Small town politics meets community perseverance which has horrific cons
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
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
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
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
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was between 2 and 3 stars for me. Not that it was an awful read but it just didn’t pique my interest other than the stories about the animals. I was raised in small towns and I totally understood the dynamics and the politics. This felt like I was reading a documentary. Another review said it could have been written as a magazine article, which I agree with as well.
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.
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting

I live in Nebraska and had no idea these events even took place. The book is very well written and researched.
Kerri wagner
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it

This book did not have as much about the zoo or animals as I thought it would . I felt like the author was rambling a lot and it was more about people who mismanaged a "zoo"
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
Sam Sattler
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, animals
Having grown up in a small town, I learned the hard way that small towns are both the best and the worst places for kids to live. That bit of wisdom came to me just as I reached young adulthood; right about the time I decided that I had had enough of small town living to last me a lifetime. But my little town was home to just over 12,000 people when I escaped it. Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream, in comparison, is set in a tiny village in rural Nebraska called Royal – populatio ...more
Kenya Starflight
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
I confess that I'd never heard of the town of Royal, its zoo, or the tragedy of its chimpanzee escape and its subsequent collapse until I found this book. Having read it, however, I find myself heartbroken at the tragedy involved -- and angered at the small-town politics, ignorance, naivete, and outright apathy that led to Zoo Nebraska's collapse and the neglect and eventual death visited upon the animals in its care. And "Zoo Nebraska" (the book) paints an emotional, if sometimes scattered, por ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating tale of rural America in the turn of the 21st century. Yes, I was surprised that this wasn't years ago entirely in the previous century, this (the end of the zoo, that is) was just over a decade ago. Carson Vaughan does a great job of stating the testimonies and facts found in official documents without taking sides. Rather, he presents all the contradictory accounts on the table, which makes everything more fascinating and inevitably more bizarre. There seems to be one thing that' ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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Emilio III
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'll start this review with a reference given at the end of the book. In the Acknowledgements section to be exact. Author Carson Vaughan was with his future wife traveling along the small town backroads of her youth when she casually pointed out a spot off the highway and said: "that's where Reuben was shot." Having written two books myself, I know that inspiration can come from unexpected sources. Learning that Reuben was a chimpanzee sparked Carson's interest. What started out as a college the ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"And then the racket returned, a pounding on the back door...a shaken Diana pushed her way inside. She offloaded her shotgun on a visitor near the door, a man who looked like he pulled the trigger before.

'If they come around the windows, show 'em that gun," she said. 'I don't know what else will stop them. They can go through glass in a heartbeat.'

Just moments later, she found Jimmy Joe standing outside the front door more electric now then he seemed before, as if at any second he might swing t
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“many believe the Rwandan government ordered the hit.” 0 likes
“My own view of the world is that until you risk things, you don’t get there.” 0 likes
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