But this book–what a delightful read! I loved it.
Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski, a retired veterinarian who is 90+ years old, lonely, and living in a nursing home. When a circus comes to town, Jacob begins to reminisce about the time he spent working for a circus during The Great Depression.
Right before graduating from veterinary school at Cornell University, Jacob experiences a horrible family tragedy. His way of coping with his pain is to run away from it. He randomly hops a train and finds himself in the middle of the train-traveling Benzini Brothers Circus.
And so begins Jacob’s adventures–with the circus, exotic animals, and the people. He finds unexpected friendships, and even love.
In the book, the reader is taken back and forth between Jacob’s action-packed past with the circus, and his present, where he is frustrated that his aging body and brain are beginning to fail him. We live what he lives and feel what he feels, whether it is the awe with which he regards the circus animals, or the pain he experiences at the nursing home, having been left behind by his wife, who passed away, and his children, who have all gone on living their own lives.
The author does a wonderful job at setting this story in the middle of a Depression-era circus. So much of what makes this book great is in the details, which were apparently really well researched by Gruen. Many parts of the story are actually based on things she read and heard about the circus while preparing to write the book.
Water for Elephants is an exciting and fun novel that kept me turning the pages. It has become one of my favorites and I think it would be enjoyed by just about everyone. If you haven’t read it, definitely put this on your “must read” lists!
And, as always, if you have read it… let’s discuss in the comments!
AboutI'm Heather. I'm 32 and have been married to Michael for six years. Together, we have two beautiful little girls we love more than anything, and a miniature dachshund who drives us crazy. I'm a full-time working mom who has very little time for my own "stuff" these days, like home improvement, cooking/baking, cake decorating, and photography. Despite the team not making the playoffs since 1999, I'm STILL a Buffalo Bills fan, which I think speaks to my loyalty AND sense of humor. I can't wait to pick up the pace with travel again some day... you know, when we're done being ruled by tiny fists. Welcome to my blog.
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