Sunday, November 9, 2008

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book was our November selection for the Book Club, and we had to wait almost a year to get it in the large print kits that come from the state, but I must say it was worth the wait.

I have always been enamored of elephants and think they are amazing creatures. Elephants have one of the longest lifespans in the animal kingdom and live almost as long as human beings. They are the largest land animals and use infrasound (a low sound inaudible to humans) to communicate with each other over distances of several miles. Elephants have the best sense of smell of the world's animals and the tip of an elephants trunk contains the most sensitive tissue ever studied. And elephants grieve for dead companions, something that is virtually unknown in other animals.

This book is about the world of the circus, but it is so much more than that. Sara Gruen introduces us to a world of freaks and misfits and a struggling second rate circus that is trying to stay alive in the midst of the Great Depression. She draws vivid characters into a superb plot full of gritty historical detail and concisely brings this lost world to life in her fast paced story. She manages to humanize the midgets, drunks and freaks who populate her story and even manages to give us an amazing glimpse at what it's like to grow old.

Jacob Jankowski, a veterinary student who has almost earned his degree, is suddenly orphaned, jumps onto a passing train, and finds himself hired on as the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, who unfortunately happenes to be married to the charismatic but darkly twisted August, the animal trainer. And then of course there is Rosie, an elephant they manage to pick up along the way from another circus that has gone under and seems untrainable until a way is discovered to reach her.

This is a beautifully written lovely and mesmerizing book. It is a compelling journey, not only into the heart of the circus, but also a book that tells us much about what animals can teach people about love.

1 comment:

Cath Brookes said...

I was amazed to learn that a lot of the story had actually been based on FACTS. I found myself rethinking the whole thing after knowing that a lot of the events had actually occurred. While reading some of it, I thought to myself "impossible" Maybe impossible now, but then it was all survival of the fittest and doing what you could to get by. It's amazing!

When I finished the book, I was actually sad there wasn't more. Although, the ending was PERFECT!
Top Fishing Lodge Alaska, recommended

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