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 ``I was restless again. The last time I had been restless, I ended up being pursued by cannibals in Indonesia.'' This is how British travel-writer Shand explains why he skipped off to India to buy an elephant and ride it 800 miles from Konarak, on the Bay of Bengal, north to the Ganges River. Shand falls in love at first sight with the 30-year-old female pachyderm, which he names Tara: ``She was leaning nonchalantly against a tree, the charms of her perfectly rounded posterior in full view, like a prostitute on a street corner. I knew then I had to have her.'' The foray also includes his buddy Aditya, a drunken elephant-handler named Bhim, and a support jeep manned by two drivers--which makes the trip more like a traveling circus than an adventure. Still, the company meets a few dangers, like cobras slithering by the tent, man-eating tigers, and infrequent escape attempts by Tara herself. But elephant-love remains the central subject of the story as Shand's affection for Tara grows so strong that, when he must sell her at the bazaar in Sonepur Mela, he starts sounding like a little boy entranced by the cozy protectiveness of a mother; indeed, the handler calls Tara ``Mummy.'' Shand does find a good home for Tara, and when they part, the elephant, like a Betsy Wetsy doll, sheds real tears--or so Shand says. There's surprisingly little here on the politics of elephant preservation in a country where the population is at war with the giant creatures. But animal lovers will be charmed, since Tara ultimately comes across as an oversized pet with lots of darling human traits that demonstrate just how much like people elephants really are. (Thirty color photographs.)

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1992
ISBN: 0-87951-454-X
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992