Valerie Joan Connors’ latest book, In Her Keeping, is the story of a woman who plummets to her deepest despair and manages to climb out of it and find a better and more fulfilling life. Along the way, Connors serves up a skunk of an unfaithful husband, nefarious characters, some skullduggery, and tigers – lots of tigers.
Sylvia, our protagonist, has just suffered the double whammy of a divorce and the loss of a child at about the same time. The baby she and her husband have adopted is taken away from her because the teenage mother changes her mind. She then learns that her louse of a husband is having an affair. When she confronts him with her evidence, he informs her that his lover is pregnant and he wants a divorce.
Sylvia runs to the North Carolina vacation mountain home owned by her and her husband, and secludes herself in her misery. The Tiger Hills Sanctuary is next to her property. Deciding she’d like to do some volunteer work, she visits the place and meets its owner, Ethan Montgomery. The sanctuary takes in tigers and other large cats that have been mistreated or are no longer wanted. She falls in love with these beautiful animals and wants to help them.
Sylvia finds she is devoting more and more time to the sanctuary, including taking on a public relations and fund-raising campaign. Meanwhile, a mysterious and sinister person wants to buy the property and tigers for a black market tiger parts business and will stoop to anything to get them.
Connors’ research brings to light what is happening to tigers in the wild and also here in the U.S., where they’re often abused and neglected–kept in cages too small for them, put on display in shopping malls, or put on tiger farms to be raised and shipped to China to be killed for their parts or to be hunted and killed by big game hunters. In her book, the Tiger Hills Sanctuary is a place where a few lucky tigers can live in peace.
This book spoke to me for two reasons: as a conservationist, I am concerned about the plight of the few remaining tigers and other creatures on the planet. Also, I love a story about a person finding happiness and fulfillment in unexpected places. In this case, Sylvia desperately wants to have a baby but can’t. She ends up giving her maternal love to tiger cubs.