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