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Publisher's Summary

The fragile, 1952 postwar tranquility of a young boy’s world explodes one summer day when a leopard escapes from the Oklahoma City zoo, throwing all the local residents into dangerous excitement, in this evocative story of a child’s confrontation with his deepest fears.

For Grady McClarty, an ever-watchful but bewildered five-year-old boy, World War II is only a troubling, ungraspable event that occurred before he was born. But he feels its effects all around him. He and his older brother Danny are fatherless, and their mother, Bethie, is still grieving for her fighter-pilot husband. Most of all, Grady senses it in his two uncles: young combat veterans determined to step into a fatherhood role for their nephews, even as they struggle with the psychological scars they carry from the war.

When news breaks that a leopard has escaped from the Oklahoma City Zoo, the playthings and imagined fears of Grady’s childhood begin to give way to real-world terrors, most imminently the dangerous jungle cat itself. The Leopard Is Loose is a stunning encapsulation of America in the 1950s, and a moving portrait of a boy’s struggle to find his place in the world.

©2022 Stephen Harrigan (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Harrigan’s tale rings true . . . [The Leopard Is Loose] engagingly draws upon family lore, those dinner-table anecdotes beginning, ‘Do you remember…?’ . . . Harrigan deftly catches the flavorful sense of a place and time as witnessed by a child”—Joyce Sáenz Harris, The Dallas Morning News

“Taut and muscular. Not a word is wasted. . . [An] invaluable historical novel.”—Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman 

“Absorbing . . . Depicts the terror sparked by the leopard’s escape, including scenes in which cars filled with gun-toting would-be game hunters raced down the city’s streets . . . The book also touches on some of the big issues of the time, including the psychological damage sustained by those who fought in World War II.”—Deborah Martin, San Antonio Express-News 

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personal memoir no plot

Not much of a plot happening, lack of character development, more of a personal memoir. I did not enjoy the abuse of animals and lack of empathy about it. racism was called out in the story, but I think the author was giving too much faith about the actions/thoughts of his white relatives toward racist behaviors in the story