The fragile, 1952 postwar tranquility of a young boy’s world explodes one summer day when a leopard escapes from the Oklahoma City zoo, throwing all the local residents into dangerous excitement, in this evocative story of a child’s confrontation with his deepest fears.
For Grady McClarty, an ever-watchful but bewildered five-year-old boy, World War II is only a troubling, ungraspable event that occurred before he was born. But he feels its effects all around him. He and his older brother Danny are fatherless, and their mother, Bethie, is still grieving for her fighter-pilot husband. Most of all, Grady senses it in his two uncles: young combat veterans determined to step into a fatherhood role for their nephews, even as they struggle with the psychological scars they carry from the war.
When news breaks that a leopard has escaped from the Oklahoma City Zoo, the playthings and imagined fears of Grady’s childhood begin to give way to real-world terrors, most imminently the dangerous jungle cat itself. The Leopard Is Loose is a stunning encapsulation of America in the 1950s, and a moving portrait of a boy’s struggle to find his place in the world.