June 07, 1999 12:00 PM

by Barbara Gowdy

Elephants may be big and smelly, but in this engrossing novel—told from the point of view of three pachyderms struggling to survive in drought-stricken, hunter-ridden Africa—they’re also touching. Canadian novelist Gowdy’s elephants have complex relationships and petty squabbles just like people. And her tale of these animals’ search for a Holy Grail-like white bone that will lead them to “the Safe Place” is based on extensive research and reflects Gowdy’s warm-blooded empathy for our fellow mammals. The result is a captivating fictional venture into territory usually traveled by public television documentaries and children’s books. (Metropolitan, $23)

Bottom Line: Babar for grownups

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