Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen | LibraryThing

Gruen, S. (2007). Water for elephants. Detroit: Thomson Gale. 9781594132001

In my three years working as a librarian, I’ve observed trends in books. Patrons request various books. Time and again, patron sought Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. This past November, a friend and I saw a trailer for the movie based on the novel. Yet, what encouraged me to read this book myself was a reader’s advisory workshop I participated in during February. I requested a large print copy through HCPL and received a copy shortly thereafter.

Gruen presents two different storylines. The first one is the young veterinarian student Jacob Janowski. He’s the son of Polish immigrants and his father is a veterinarian. His parents died in a tragic car accident and Jacob in effect drops out his veterinary program at Cornell. Then, Jacob stumbles onto the train of the traveling circus. He takes on the care of the exotic traveling menagerie of the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Traveling with the circus, Jacob meets the neurotic August, August’s wife – equestrian Marlena, and the anthropomorphized elephant, Rosie.

The other narrative thread finds the ninety-something Jacob in a nursing home. He reminisces about his circus days, the tempestuous August, and Jacob’s pining for Marlena.

I won’t reveal the ending but both threads are neatly and happily knit together. While I’m one who often favors such, it didn’t totally ring true. Also, learning that Jacob ends up in a nursing home where he’s patronized didn’t set right with me. Here’s the good news, though. I enjoyed reading about the animals, especially when Jacob found his vocational calling. Rosie the Elephant and Bobo the Chimpanzee were my favorite characters in the book.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night

Places : Upstate New York, The Midwest, Chicago, Poland

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  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

For more on Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, check out the following sites:

2 thoughts on “Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants

  1. Interesting! The first time I read it, I was blown away, but I think that is because I fall for those happy endings. The second time, there were a few things that didn’t make complete sense to me. In all, I like the message, but if I were the author (if only!), I would definitely make changes to the narrative.

    I’m just starting to get into her new book so we’ll see how it compares. Happy reading!

    • @ theveryhungrybookworm – thanks for commenting on my post on Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. I’m looking forward to the movie. Are you?

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