It is around this time that Zelie's brushes with tragedy begin. Rocked by the death of her boyfriend's brother, her beloved sister and then her father (whom she had only recently come to know properly) she decides to postpone study for a while and find a job that will allow her to work with animals. After seeing an ad on TV for Movie World on the Gold Coast that features a Palomino horse she makes up her mind to meet the person who trained the horse. Taking a job as a chaperone at Movie World as a foot in the door, Zelie takes her first step in what will become an amazing career.
Just when life is coming good for Zelie - she has trained as a stunt person and volunteers with the horses in the RM Williams outback spectacular - tragedy strikes again with the death of her boyfriend Grahame. Fighting depression and thoughts of suicide she pulls herself together by throwing herself back into her work. In demand as a stunt person she also dedicates herself to learning all she can about animal training - in any way she can. It is amazing how, in many cases, a simple phone call led Zelie to a series of people who then through their contacts introduced her to others. All along this journey Zelie is learning and training, building up her skills and gaining a favourable reputation as a respected trainer. And then Hollywood comes knocking and Zelie's career really takes off as she begins working in the movie industry on a string of movies including such blockbusters as Zorro, Babe and Steven Spielberg's epic War Horse.
It is difficult to understand why some people experience so much more loss and hardship than others in life - and Zelie herself has no answers as to why she has experienced so much tragedy. However through these horrible experiences she has come to know that life must be lived with purpose and passion and that the very least you will get is what you ask for. I was amazed on many occasions how Zelie simply went to the "best" person in the industry and asked for help or training and was given it. So many of us stand back and complain that we aren't where we want to be but have never made the effort or even researched what we need to do to get where we want to go. Her story also illustrates that you don't always need an impressive education to achieve great things in life.
The other thing Zelie's story brings home is the beauty and majesty of animals and the massive amount of effort that goes into training them. It gave me a whole new appreciation of the scenes in movies that feature animals and the incredible skill that trainers like Zelie possess to make a thirty second scene real and credible.
Overall this is a hugely inspiring book. Zelie is an amazing woman who has achieved great success by following her dreams amidst personal setbacks that would see most of us retreat from the world in a spiral of drugs and alcohol. It was gratifying to read that her life is now full and happy (with her husband and son) and I have no doubt her career will continue on an upward trajectory.