A Powerful Story of One Man’s Courage and Sacrifice

It was an act of incredible courage and sacrifice; one of heroic proportions.  But Timothy Wrenn was not a heroic figure; far from it.  Yet, during a moment of divine inspiration he stepped outside the fabric of his everyday, humdrum existence and did the unthinkable; he took his entire savings and purchased another man’s freedom.  This is the essence of Alison Winfree Pickrell’s poignant and extremely well written book, “Den of Lions.”

In the beginning of the book, Pickrell prepares the reader for what’s to come by painting a careful, thoughtful portrait of Timothy Wrenn. He was a small man, scarcely noticed or remembered in crowds, whose entire life rotated around the dual axis his small, neatly-kept apartment and the library in which he worked. His parents were deceased and he had no brothers, sisters, or close friends. Still, his was not Thoreau’s “life of quiet desperation,” but rather, a life of quiet acceptance.  The only challenge to his well ordered but lonely existence was occasional bouts of asthma which he managed to control with medication.

Although Timothy had no close friends, it is not fair to say that he had no friends at all.  In particular, there were two men upon whom he lavished all the kindness and concern normally associated with close friendship.  One was a dwarf he called Littlebit, and the other, a large man of uncertain appearance named Hummer.  Both were frequent visitors to a small park at the town’s center where they allowed Timothy to give them freshly made sandwiches, which they accepted with shy nervousness like frightened animals.  As it turned out, his encounters with these poor souls were harbingers of what was to come.

One afternoon, one of Timothy’s co-workers invited him to accompany her to a local carnival.  He reluctantly accepted and by doing so, his life changed forever.  It was there he and his companion encountered a filthy, pitiful creature in chains being exhibited in a freak show.  Timothy was shocked and revolted by the sight of this mistreated human being and his image stayed with him long after he returned home.  Worse yet, he found himself in an internal dialogue in which God seems to be urging him to help the man.  But what could he do?  To free him would undoubtedly cost him a lot of money; more money than he could possibly afford.  But in the end, Timothy admitted to himself that he could free him, if he used the money he was saving for a vacation to Greece; a vacation during which he fantasized that he would meet the love of his life.  In an act of bravery born of desperation, he took the money, went to the carnival, and bought the man’s freedom.

Pickrell’s description of what happened next is painful to read in parts, but her descriptions and dialogue are powerful and ring absolutely true.  Timothy’s new friend, whom he calls Daniel, is hopelessly retarded, has no communicative skills, and no knowledge of basic hygiene. But Timothy soldiers on, measuring success by tiny steps; all the while going to work as usual and hiding Daniel from the outside world.   But eventually, his asthma condition worsens and it becomes apparent that he cannot carry on. When this happens, things begin to fall apart and Timothy’s story ends in a way so moving and heartbreaking that it cannot fail to soften the heart of the most hardened reader.

“Den of Lions” is a simple, elegantly-written book that sends a powerful lesson to its readers; a lesson that is inscribed on the back cover: “Courage isn’t always what you think it is…”

Title:  Den of Lions

Author:  Alison Winfree Pickrell

Publisher:  OakTara Publishers

ISBN, Price, Publication Date:  978-1-60290-097-4, $16.95, 2008

Ron Standerfer is a freelance writer and photographer who is a frequent contributor to Blogger News Network.  His latest novel, The Eagle’s Last flight chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years.  Details of the book can be found on www.theeagleslastflight.com. 

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