The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World by Andy Merrifield is a book to read slowly. I took ten days to read this account of the author's walking trip through the Auvergne region of central France with a rented donkey named Gribouille. I fell asleep several times while reading his descriptions of the tranquil bridle paths and rural villages far from the hectic cities of his somehow unsatisfying career as a teacher and writer. Merrifield urges readers to daydream. Unlike many authors, he probably smiles when readers drop his book as they nod off.
Gribouille, a chocolate brown donkey with a placid personality is more than a beast of burden. He is a friend and adviser who makes the pilgrimage possible. His calm restrains Merrifield who might pick up the pace and miss much of what there is to see if he were alone. If the donkey declines to cross a bridge or go down a path, the author reconsiders the way. If the way can not be changed, the man waits for the donkey to agree, which he always does.
On the way, Merrifield recounts many donkey stories from history and literature, showing that the equines are intelligent and companionable animals. He rues their misrepresentations in Aesop's fables and stereotypical comedies. He contends that communities that still harbor donkeys are more pleasant places. A man or woman with a donkey is better off than someone with an SUV.
The Wisdom of Donkeys is a quietly persuasive book that deserves more attention at this time when our whole way of life is questioned. More libraries should consider it.
Merrifield, Andy. The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World. Walker & Company, 2008. ISBN 9780802715937
Isn't it cool that the publisher is "Walker"?