Hard to keep a dry eye, either from emotions or laughter...
May 16, 2013
This book had me in tears, both by laughter and emotional impact... Learning to Play With a Lion's Testicles: Unexpected Gifts From the Animals of Africa by Melissa Haynes. The title was enough to intrigue me into considering it for reading and reviewing. It didn't take long before I knew it was a great decision.
Haynes went to South Africa to volunteer on a wild game reserve, seeking to find some perspective and purpose in her life. What sounded like an adventure quickly turned into a stubborn contest of wills between her and the park ranger, nicknamed the Drill Sergeant, who didn't much care for city volunteers... especially those of the female persuasion. He was determined to send her packing as early as possible into her three-week stint, and she was just as determined to prove herself as something more than a woman who needed babysitting. Along the way, she learned some tough truths about life, death, and self-imposed limitations. While she had gone to help the animals, it ended up being the animals that helped her.
Had the story been nothing more than her experiences on the reserve, it would have been a fun read. Haynes does an excellent job in capturing the humor and bizarreness of life on the plains of Africa. However, there's a serious thread that winds through the pages, one that ties together the lessons of the reserve with the realities of life and death. Her mom had passed away due to cancer, and Haynes was dealing with massive guilt over not being able to handle the final hours. She comes face-to-face with that guilt and fear in a very primal way during her stay, and it's hard to keep a dry eye as the events unfold.
Learning to Play With a Lion's Testicles is a 200 page roller-coaster of emotions, and it's a ride that's well worth experiencing. You'll laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same time...
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
Melissa Haynes created and orchestrated successful national campaigns for major corporate players, opened and ran a prosperous business in Mexico. Her project management experience landed her a handful of lucrative Olympic contracts for the 2012 Winter Olympics. She ghostwrote a column about entertaining in the Vancouver Courier for years and a chapter in the award-winning chef's cookbook Inside the Recipe Box. She is a self-admitted chronic adventure junkie and travel addict. She is passionate about animals, adventure, conservation and scribbling. But her greatest accomplishment and adventure to date was volunteering in Africa and living to write about it.