Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 399 (ereader)
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell..
Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival
This was a great way for me to end my Spring Break reading! I'm pretty late on this boat so let me get straight to the point. This was an AWESOME read. I fell in love with ninety-year-old (or ninety-three) Jacob from the start. He wasn't just a cranky old man reliving memories, but the transition between the present and the past was seamless. He was a person who wanted to be treated like a person. Sometimes authors use flashbacks to tell a story but the characters and their personalities aren't entirely consistent or you get the feel that they are two different people. That is not the case in this book. Jacob is a fighter as an older man just like when he was younger. The depth in the characters are astounding and I always say how important characters are to my enjoyment of a book. My other favorite character is Walter. So human and seeing his transition throughout the book warmed my heart. The ending seemed a bit unrealistic but I overlooked it because I was happy that Jacob was happy.
I'm sure this book has been reviewed over and over again because it is just that amazing and I'm the late one. But I want to drill down to the nitty gritty (amid all my gushing). This story is great because of the depth of characters, the well-researched circus storyline, and the plot's ability to keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat. This book is not particularly appropriate for kids and is a bit graphic in a few spots. I learned more history and made a friend with an Elephant. What more is there to say?
Have you read this book? Why or why not? What did you think? I have put off reading this book for so long because it just didn't look like it would be interesting (judging by the cover again). Am I the only one who falls in this trap? Do you judge a book by its cover? Which books have proved you wrong because of this judging?