Book Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of carin… more »g for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

I finished this book days ago, it only took me a day and a half to read, but I wanted to take my time on the review (a cat tried to force me to write it earlier don’t ask) so here goes.
Water for Elephants is soon to be a major motion picture, and I have the complex that even though I know it will make the movie not as good I MUST read all books before I see the movie that is based on it. This one has been in my to read pile in all honesty since it came out in 2008, I can now officially say I regret it sitting in my pile that long unread. This book is perhaps one of the best books I have read. It is the best of 2011, sure I haven’t read a ton yet this year but I do not see its spot changing too much.
The writing style is excellent I love how it flips back and forth between old a Jacob and Young Jacob. Old Jacob really is what you picture as the typical crotchety old man, the one you know is on the porch shaking his cane saying “Dang Kids get off my lawn!”, but somehow you just can’t be mad at him for it. Especially when you see how la his family is with him. Young Jacob is a good kid, he makes mistakes but he earnestly wants to do right by people and he is a spitfire about it.
This book is a MUST read, and I do mean must. For seeing how circuses worked on the inside in the great depression. If the movie manages to get even half the depth of story and character that the book does it will be fantastic. At its core Water for Elephants is a love story, but it’s a life story as much as anything with love just happening as it does in the natural course of life. Good writing, good story, history and love what else can you ask for in a novel?

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