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 just turned 30. I'm happily married, and mommy to the most beautiful little girl in the world (what, you're saying I could be biased?). Determined DIYer and homeowner. Sarcastic. A perfectionist. A bleeding-heart liberal. Frugal. Loves a little dog way more than many humans. Loves food, hates exercise (it's an ongoing battle). A loyal football fan. I love to laugh. Value family and friends above all else. Vie to be a world traveler.
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