REVIEW: Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)

I’ll be honest. I had no idea this was even a book until the movie came out. I knew I wanted to see this movie. Come on. Reese Whitherspoon can do no wrong in my eyes and Robert Pattinson is rather easy on the eyes. It was a no brainer. Because I have a general rule about reading the book first, I submitted my request to the library… right behind about 100 other people. My turn finally came and I could not put this book down. I started it before we left for a weekend trip and stayed up until midnight on the 1st night of our trip to finish it.

This story is being retold through the memories of an old man now living in a nursing home. The sight of a circus setting up outside the windows triggers his thoughts and takes him back to a much earlier time in his life. Our main character, Jacob, meets unfortunate circumstances when his parents perish in a car accident right as he is about to take his final examinations to become a veterinarian. Emotionally distraught, he runs and ultimately, out of sheer desperation, jumps a train not realizing what he was about to get himself into. He quickly becomes acquainted with the ins and out of a traveling circus and proves to be much use to the team with his veterinary skills. There are parts of the circus that are as glamourous as you can imagine but most of it is downright shameful. The reader comes face-to-face with some brutal realities about life on the road for both the animals and their caretakers.
Jacob meets August (the boss) and Marlena (his wife). The Mrs. also happens to be a beautiful equine performer who is extremely loyal to her horses. A new elephant arrives on the scene and things start to get really interesting for this show but mostly behind the scenes. The new act puts Jacob working side-by-side Marlena and August on a daily basis. The physical attraction builds along with a heap of animosity on the side for the boss man. It’s not without due cause as August has his fair share of unflattering flaws. Things get even more heated when the owner of the show solicits Jacob to try and patch things up between Marlena and her husband. If the duo doesn’t work things out, Jacob is working against some pretty serious threats from the circus leader.
A chaotic turn of events puts everyone’s life in danger but you’ll have to read this one to find out who lives and which relationships survive.
One of the things I loved about this book is that most of the bones of the novel were all true events that the author collected from history and combined them all together for one story. Granted, the storyline between our characters was fabricated but it blended nicely with the surrounding events. The best part about the book, was imagining Reese & RPatz in the lead roles. A nice visual always helps when you are reading. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie as I hear they have done a nice job with keeping the storyline intact.

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