I had always needed animals like I needed oxygen. They were my very breath, and every time I saw them suffering, it was like someone was holding their hand over my own mouth. But for most of my life I had felt alone in these feelings, and like I had to prove that the animals I cared about mattered. – Ellie Laks, from My Gentle Barn
I can't remember the last time I read a book that engaged and affected me as much as My Gentle Barn has. After reading the first few chapters, I developed a deep respect for the author, Ellie Laks, for her tireless and steadfast mission to save animals who are abused, neglected, abandoned or otherwise forgotten.
The book opens up describing Ellie's childhood, which was defined by repeated cycles of powerlessness, a constant invalidation of her feelings and being completely misunderstood by others. Although heartbreaking to read, it's essential to understand, as it heavily contributed to her already strong and innate passion to rescue and help animals in need.
It was this urge to be a voice for the voiceless that formed Ellie's childhood vision of having a place where animals and people healed each other. Beginning with a small rescue mission in her own backyard which eventually culminated into The Gentle Barn, an animal sanctuary in Santa Clarita, California, Ellie found a way to mend herself by not only healing animals, but also others in need. After the rescued animals are healed, they are used to teach empathy, compassion and kindness to at-risk and special needs youth—creating a safe place for them to learn, grow and experience the simple joy of being around animals. Since its inception in 1999, The Gentle Barn has saved thousands of animals and has hosted more than 400,000 visitors.
My Gentle Barn is a fantastic read that's beautifully written, inspiring and tear-jerking, but ultimately joyful and life-affirming. Many thanks to Random House for sharing a copy of Ellie's moving memoir with me, and for the opportunity to review this intensely compelling and poignant new title.
For more information on The Gentle Barn, visit www.thegentlebarn.com.