Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Reason for reading: This is one of my TBR Challenge books.
Days to finish: 1
I adored this book. I absolutely loved it. A lot of people said that I would but I was a little skeptical going into it. The premise seemed weird. It was about a guy that joined a circus as the veterinarian. Sounded cheesy to me. Boy! Was I ever wrong. The book was so much more. It was about love, the circus, animals, betrayal, loss, aging, and excitement.
Jacob, the main character, deals with the loss of his parents and, thus, the world as he knew it or thought it was going to be, by running. Not knowing where to go or what to do next, he jumped a train that happened to belong to a circus. Set in the 1930's this book takes place when circuses still travelled town to town by train. Despite the dirt, the smells, and the hardships, the circus was glamorous and the reader is taken along on a very bumpy ride.
The story goes back and forth between Jacob at 23, full of life, and a circus vet to Jacob at 90 or 93 (he isn't sure of the year) and in an assisted living facility. It's a very sharp contrast between seeing him as someone in control and someone at the mercy of others. The things that happen to him at the home and his trials that come from being old make you wonder if that's how we really treat our elderly. Is that what we have to look forward to in our golden years? One passage in the book describes how he gets upset at having to eat mushy food every day. He becomes vocal in his protestations. As a result, and against his wishes, he's given antidepressants. The staff and his doctor didn't listen to him; they just saw a crotchety, old, depressed shadow of a man.
Jacob's time with the circus was full of drama. He sees and immediately falls for Marlena, one of the performers who also happens to be married to August, the man in charge of the menagerie. Jacob is immediately met with confrontation when forced to bunk with another performer who hated Jacob on sight. He also has to deal with August's volatile nature. Lastly, there's Rosie. Rosie is the seemingly untrainable circus elephant that is oftentimes the object of August's vileness. Jacob sees more in her than just a "dumb" elephant.
This book truly did have everything including one of the best endings I've ever read in a book. If you know me, you know how much endings are important to me. As soon as I was finished reading it, I had the urge to turn back to page one and start all over again which isn't something that happens often with a book no matter how much I like it. Sara Gruen is a magnificent author who paid much attention to detail and the history of circuses. If you haven't read this book, you're missing out on an experience.