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Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl Hardcover – August 19, 2008

434 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Owls permeate literature and mythology, an ancient animal ("some 97 million years" old) that has fascinated for centuries; still, few people have had as intimate an encounter with the mysterious night birds as biologist O'Brien. As a student researcher at Caltech, she fell in love with an injured four-day-old barn owl and seized the opportunity to adopt him permanently. She named him Wesley, and for 19 years kept, cared for and studied him, forging a tremendous relationship with the still-wild animal, as well as a vast understanding of his abilities, instincts and habits: "He was my teacher, my companion, my child, my playmate, my reminder of God." Her heartwarming story is buttressed by lessons on owl folklore, temperament ("playful and inquisitive"), skills, and the brain structure that gives them some amazing abilities, like spotting a mouse "under three feet of snow by homing in on just the heartbeat." It also details her working life among fellow scientists, a serious personal health crisis, and the general ins and outs of working with animals. This memoir will captivate animal lovers and, though not necessarily for kids, should hold special appeal for Harry Potter fans who've always envied the boy wizard his Hedwig.
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"I love Wesley the Owl! Not since Konrad Lorenz have I read such an honest, vivid, and revealing account of the rich and complex life of an individual bird. Stacey O'Brien has captured the essence of the soul of an unforgettable owl. Affectionate, quirky, joyous, and wise, Wesley shows us the Way of the Owl -- the way to God and grace. This book is destined to become a classic, and will deepen importantly the way we understand birds." -- Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig

"Wesley the Owl is beautiful, funny, transcendental, fascinating, and powerful. I loved this book!" -- Lynne Cox, author of Grayson and Swimming to Antarctica

"This compelling story sheds a bright, shining light into the world of animal emotions and the powerful bonds forged between animals and humans. A heartfelt journey of life and love with one of nature's wild creatures, Wesley the Owl is a must-read story of faith, compassion, and selfless devotion." -- Jay Kopelman, author of From Baghdad, With Love and From Baghdad to America

"Most 'me and my bird' stories are mildly entertaining at best, but Wesley the Owl is a different animal altogether. Stacey O'Brien got to know this owl with a unique combination of deep scientific understanding and rare emotional intensity, and the result is stunning, unforgettable. Read this book and you will never see owls, or humans, in the same light again." -- Kenn Kaufman, author of Kingbird Highway and Flights Against the Sunset

"This fun book reminded me of Marley & Me, but with wings. Warm, weird, and wonderful, Wesley the Owl is proof that man's best friend sometimes has feathers." -- Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year

"An inside look at the mind of an owl. If you are interested in animal intelligence, you should read this book."-- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

"The best of love stories between two intelligent beings, told (by the human) with good humor and remarkable insights into the mind of an owl -- I couldn't put it down."-- Donald Kroodsma, Ph.D., professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of The Singing Life of Birds

"[S]weet, quirky memoir....[T]his little guy's such a character."-- USA Today

"Wesley will make you wonder if owls are not at least as wise as humans and as capable of compassion. Wesley the Owl will stretch your notions about the limits of interspecies communication and love. It will entertain, delight and, finally, cause you to weep. Guaranteed."-- Sam Keen, author of Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters With Ordinary Birds

"Stacey O'Brien tells the intriguing story of how her life was changed and rearranged when she attempted to tame and raise Wesley -- a barn owl. She shows us how she was ultimately repaid with his love and devotion, and given glimpses into the mind of an animal that has an unexpected ability to understand human language and to communicate. Fascinating!" --Stanley Coren, psychologist and author of How Dogs Think and Why Does My Dog Act That Way?

When Stacey O'Brien became "smitten beyond reason" and adopted an injured owl while working at Cal Tech, it was for life. As it turned out, it was a decision that saved both her life and the owl s. Renée Raudman reads O'Brien's story of human-animal bonding with such compassion and interest in her subject that listeners may forget she's not the author. Even unpleasant subjects like owl bathroom habits and the process of killing mice for Wesley's dinner become humorous and fascinating. O'Brien packs in a lot of information about owls, animals, and life at Cal Tech, and it all flows naturally in Raudman's reading. J.A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine --AudioFile --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416551735
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (434 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stacey O'Brien is trained as a biologist specializing in wild-animal behavior. She graduated from Occidental College with a BS in biology and continued her education at Caltech. Stacey now works as a wildlife rescuer and rehabilitation expert with a variety of local animals, including the endangered brown pelican, owls, seabirds, possums, and songbirds. She lives in Southern California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

188 of 191 people found the following review helpful By R. Murphy VINE VOICE on August 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Working as a student researcher at CalTech, Stacey O'Brien brought a four-day-old owlet home from the lab and named him Wesley. For the next nineteen years, he would be her constant companion and beloved friend. This is a beautiful memoir about the relationship that O'Brien and Wesley developed. O'Brien writes not only as Wesley's besotted owner, but also from the perspective of a biologist, which gives the book a depth and authority that a lot of "my beloved pet" stories lack. This book was fascinating, filled to the brim with exciting facts about owls, but also some very funny anecdotes - such as when Wesley decided that he wanted to learn to swim. It was a really moving, lovely book, and everyone I recommended it to has loved it.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on September 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I can't add much to what the other reviewers have already said. If you're an animal lover of any stripe then Wesley the Owl is a book you'll want to spend some time with. Stacey O'Brien's love and affection for her friend Wesley comes out on every page. Animal friends have much to offer their human companions though I've never thought much about birds as pets that can actually offer companionship. That was my ignorance operating and Ms O'Brien has set me straight. Thank you Stacey.

If you have children read Wesley to them and experience the book as a family. You won't regret it.

Peace always
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sage Rowan on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I normally choose non-fiction and, while this story is true, it almost reads like a novel. In this case, that was a strength. I like that the author started at the beginning and I didn't learn how or when Wesley died until near the end. In Alex and Me, it started after he died, before I cared about him or had bonded with him. I much preferred to follow Wesley's life in pretty much its actual order. I was impressed with the compassion and caring shown by the scientists with whom the author worked, and I found the details of their work very interesting. I also absolutely fell in love with Wesley - his personality, he curiosity, his sense of loyalty and fun. I was melancholy for a couple of days after I finished the book, realizing he was no longer in the world enriching it with his presence.

While I don't believe the average person should take in a wild animal, I disagree with the reviewer who felt Wesley should have either been released back to the wild to die young, due to his nerve-damaged wing, or killed as a baby. How the world would have been diminished if he hadn't been alive in it for 19 years!! How much we would not have learned about owls and their intelligence and their capacity to love and learn! I don't find anything "humane" about euthanizing a baby rather than allowing a loving professional to raise it and allow it a really full life. Because the author is a professional, she was able to record information and owl communication that other scientists would never have had access to otherwise. And, not only was Wesley allowed to enjoy a full life, but the author's life was enriched by their relationship, and the lives of everyone who reads their story are also enriched by it.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Retired & Reading! on February 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish there were more stars to give this book! I was caught from the first page by this wonderful story. How I admire this young woman for her bravery, caring, kindness, intelligence, work ethics, and on and on! I fell in love with Wesley! And, as Stacey said would happen, I cried when he died. Oh, yes!! There is a heaven for our wonderful animal loves - and we will see them again. It's just the getting on without them that is hard. I still tear up over my beautiful Juanita, gone 2 years now. I recommend this book for anyone - not just animal lovers. Everyone will read about a true love between beings that is so life confirming. Bless you, Stacey, for sharing!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Vieux Carré Blonde on October 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Stacey O'Brien does a commendable job describing the fascinating and lovable Wesley's actions in human terms, but not being anthropomorphic. As a scientist, I was fascinated by the richness of detail from this woman's 19 year saga. As one who shares life with two brilliant parrots, I cannot agree more about the depth of experience looking into a wild bird's eyes and bonding such that only death will separate you.

The Way of the Owl is the Way of the Macaw as well.

Readers of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle will note more similarities in the human-'animal' relationship set forth here in chapter after fascinating chapter. They teach us more than they learn from us. They wait, sometimes impatiently, for us to catch up with them.

The author's recounting Wesley's ongoing narratives of their life is spot-on. Birds whose life you share do this, for the sheer joy of it, for creativity and self expression. For reasons we can never know. They are the most giving, sharing creatures. And as for welcomes home...your dog will show she's glad to see you, but your bird will tell you how glad, and all that she's been thinking and feeling and doing while you were apart.

Read Wesley the Owl, and know that all creatures are conscious. All creatures. You will cry at the end, and afterward just thinking about it. Then you will run to every precious animal that blesses your life and, through tears, tell them how wonderful they are. And they will understand.
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