Review: Water for Elephants

NaBloPoMo, Day 19

Sara Gruen (2006)

I had the misfortune to be in the middle of this book when I caught a cold. There were a few late nights where I knew I should have been fast asleep and instead, I was reading as fast as I could, telling myself with each chapter that this would be the last one before turning out the light.

A ninety-something-year-old man recalls the Depression-era summer he spent as the vet for a second-rate traveling circus. Personal tragedy leads young Jacob Jankowski to jump a train out of town. As luck would have it, it’s the train carrying the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and, as the saying goes, Jacob’s life is never the same.

Simply said, this is a tremendous story. There’s drama, romance, pageantry, dwarfs, monkeys, performing horses and a tension that pulls you through from beginning to end. The heart of the story is an elephant named Rosie who unites Jacob with Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star, and her husband August, the charming head animal trainer who harbors a vicious streak.

To call this book a page-turner is an understatement. Great characters, colorful atmosphere, and well-plotted storytelling combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable book.

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