Water for Elephants

by - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Photo credit
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

So I'm a little late on this train, but after so many people recommended it I figured I would add it to my reading list. Then I had to wait for it to be available to borrow from my library for my Kindle (I haven't been able to read an actual book in awhile but I can carry that Kindle in one hand and a crying baby in another!). Finally I got it and cleared out some time to read this one.

My overall opinion: This is a good book. Maybe not the best, but I enjoyed enough to finish and not feel like I wasted my time. Granted there were a few pages that were a little embarrassing to read and not really appropriate for children (I was on an elliptical at the gym with the font on my Kindle fairly large, so I am guessing the guy next to me with too much cologne saw the bit about Jacob's first night at the circus - you're going to have to read it - let me just say it was explicit.)

The storyline is interesting. I was never really into the circus growing up (the clowns scared me - still do a little actually) so I wasn't the kid asking to see the circus when it came to town. Still I found it fascinating to hear about how the circus worked (well at least pre-WWII). I haven't seen the movie yet either, so I was jaded by the Hollywood retelling of it. (I'll probably add the movie to my list now that I read the book)

I enjoyed the narrator, Jacob, both the 90, or 93 year-old version, and the not-quite-a-vet-yet version. He did a great job of pulling me into his story. I felt for him when he got angry about sharing his dinner table at the retirement home with "that liar" and again when his parents died. I held my breath as he struggled to climb into that mystery train in the middle of night. My heart ached as he pinned over Marlena. I cringed as he worried about what August would do to poor Rosie.

Most of the characters were fun, and just embellished enough for me to picture what they would be like if I were to meet them on the street. (I hope the movie did that justice) I could hear the sounds of the circus being put up, the urgency of setup, of making money, of making a show out of it.

There were some nice twists and turns to this story that kept me interested. I am thinking that Jacob's desire to help people and animals is one of the main draws of this book. A desire that he didn't always know how to act on - read the book you'll know what I'm saying. 

I would say that the ending wasn't really a surprise, yet there was a twist I wasn't expecting (I won't spoil it in case you were like me and didn't get around to this popular story yet). And I appreciate the ending wrapping up both parts of this narrators life for me. (A story that leaves you hanging isn't always a good read, you know?)

My one dislike of the story is the treatment of the circus animals. Now I am not an over-the-top-animal-lover, however I have never been able to hear about animal cruelty in any manner - just ask my dad - I had to leave the movie theater in the middle of Free Willy, and never could see all of Might Joe Young (either version). So you can only imagine how I felt reading about the treatment of these animals who never asked to be trained for the sake of profit. (Yes, I know it is only a book, I get that, I never said my emotions were logical).