Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

Carol Bradley. St. Martin's, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-02569-2
Journalist Bradley (Saving Gracie) chronicles the bitter-sweet life of Billie, an Asian elephant abducted in the wild and forced into the cruel world of circus performing. In 1972 Billie was purchased by Chicago millionaire John Cueno Jr. for his exotic animal menagerie, and for decades hauled across the country to perform in circus after circus, working the "same mind-numbing routine." In 1996, when Billie and two other elephants finally enter retirement at one of Cueno's facilities, they are met with more dismal conditions. When Billie is finally relinquished in 2005, she is sent to the Elephant Sanctuary where former trainers Carol Buckley and Scott Blais begin the slow process of her mental and physical recovery. Interspersed throughout, Bradley recalls American history's most famous elephants, stories marred by tragedy, like Topsy, electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903, and Big Mary, hanged by a crane for killing a trainer in 1916. She concludes with the shady dealings of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The mistreatment of circus elephants, historically and presently, has been detailed elsewhere, but every animal's story is important and Billie's features a rare happy ending. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/09/2014
Release date: 07/22/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-250-02570-8
Hardcover - 465 pages - 978-1-4104-7155-0
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-250-06864-4
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