Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story The Home

By Diane Ackerman

The Home

Chapter 1

Antonina and Jan had learned to live on seasonal time, not mere chronicity. Like most humans, they did abide by clocks, but their routine was never quite routine, made up as it was of compatible realities, one attuned to animals, the other to humans. (1.9)

Living in a zoo means that Jan and Antonina have to adapt their home life and their routines to those of the animals. It's difficult but rewarding, and it puts them in touch with the rhythms of nature.

Chapter 4

When she finally arrived in Rejentòwka, she found a ghost town with summer guests gone, shops shuttered for the season, and even the post office closed. (4.18)

Antonina often has to move away from the zoo and make new little homes away from home. It's hard to do that when all the comforts of home have been abandoned.

For Jan, the puzzle of finding a town of no military interest posed an equation littered with unknowns he wasn't prepared for, since neither he nor Antonina had thought the Germans would invade Poland. (4.10)

It's alarming for Jan and Antonina to see the country they consider their home being invaded by an outside force. They thought their home was safe, but this is only the beginning of the invasion.

Chapter 5

Antonina marveled as their wrinkled hands passed out food (mainly oatmeal), sweets, a postcard album, and little games. (5.10)

The war makes people forge unlikely friendships, like this one between Antonina and her elderly landlords. It's a friendship borne out of a need to survive, and everyone provides companionship and whatever resources they can spare for one another. These old ladies feed Antonina. Hey, a fistful of oatmeal always hits the spot.

Chapter 10

We could see our two hawks and one eagle circling above the garden. When their cage was split open by bullets, they'd flown free, but they didn't want to leave the only home they knew. (10.15)

These two eagles remind us of Antonina, Jan, and Ryś: they are often kicked out of their home and forced to circle around it, and all they want to do is return home. At least they always remain happy and never become…angry birds. (We had to do it.)

Chapter 18

Antonina worried about her friend, sculptor Magdalena Gross, whose life and art had derailed with the bombing of the zoo, which wasn't just her open-air workshop but her compass, in both senses, an imaginative realm for her work and a direction for her life. (18.19)

Art needs a safe home if it's going to thrive, and the war does all it can to bust everybody and everything up. Where is Bob Ross and his happy trees when you need him?

When Jews had been ordered into the Ghetto, Gross refused, by no means an easier fate, because those who lived on the surface had to disguise themselves as Aryans and keep up the masquerade at all times, cultivating Polish street language and a plausible accent. (18.26)

Magdalena attempts to stay in her home and not give in to the Germans, but that kind of resistance only makes the Germans more forceful in removing Jews from their homes. No one has ever hung a sign that says "Ghetto Sweet Ghetto," and it would seem kind of impossible to make that kind of place into a good home.

Chapter 28

Of all the Guests to leave the villa, "high-spirited Magdalena, full of energy and laughter," was the one Antonina said she missed the most. (28.13)

Speaking of cross-stitched signs, Antonina would have to take down her "Zoo Sweet Zoo" sign if she had one, and then she'd need to chuck her "Home Sweet Home" sign in the trash, too. Just as a zoo isn't a zoo without animals, the villa isn't a home without Antonina's friends inside it.

Chapter 29

Because pheasants were delicacies, a Pheasant House sounded quite grand to the boys, and one teased: "We'll pretend we're a rare species, right, Mr. Lieutenant?" (29.7)

Many refugees in the zoo make a temporary home in one of the animal enclosures. Exotic animals make it seem like these people staying in an exotic hotel, and that does make things more interesting. Where would you rather stay, Chateau Peacock or Skunk Motel?

Chapter 32

"Mom, I know we're never going home again," he said tearfully. (32.13)

This is a sad moment for Ryś, and we're glad to say that he's wrong. The book has a happy ending, as the zookeeper, his wife, and their son all get to return to their home, romping among the animals forever like in a live-action Disney movie.

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