Thursday, August 14, 2008

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants is an incredible story of Jacob Jankowski, who as a young man inadvertently runs away with the circus shortly before writing his final exams to become a vet. Before long, he becomes familiar with the seedy underbelly of the circus world. Both compelling and heartbreaking, this story is told from Jacob's point of view as he sits in a nursing home and daydreams of his former life.

This is an amazing book. I just can't express how much I loved it. It's a sensational story with many wonderful characters. It's engaging, touching and filled with so many stunning details that I wanted to crawl into the story and not come out. My favorite characters include: Marlena and Rosie, both of whom steal Jacob's heart; Camel, a circus worker who helps Jacob get a job and then needs Jacob's help; Walter, a performer who's forced to share his room with Jacob and of course Jacob himself.

Even though the author, Sara Gruen, exposes the sleazy side of the circus life, it still felt romantic. That could be just me, though, because I've always wanted to run away with the circus. Ah, but that's another story for another time. For now, I'm satisfied with reading this book. I found myself routing for my favorite characters and wanting things to work out for them. Don't worry, I'm not going to let you know what happens. You're going to have to read this fantastic book for that.

I love Gruen's use of historical circus photos that precede some of the chapters. They really set the scene and transported me to a time when circuses were in their heyday.

At few years ago, we visited Baraboo, Wisconsin and the Circus World Museum. I fell in love with the place. The old circus wagons, the parade, the calliope, the spectacle; all fabulous. If you like the circus, it's the place to go. Be warned though, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face and even make the grumpiest of grumps or the most ardent skeptic a circus-lover. For more information regarding the museum, Wikipedia or the official website should be helpful.

I'd highly recommend this book. It's a must read for those who ever thought about running away with the circus or anyone who has been to the circus or anyone who's had a dream, or anyone at all for that matter.

I hope that Gruen has written more books (and continues to write) because I intend to read many more of them. Awesome job on this one.

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