Water for Elephants ~ Sara Gruen

Summary ~Water for Elephants: A great, glorious, big-hearted novel set in a traveling circus touring the back blocks of America during the great depression of the early 1930s. It’s a story of love and hate, trains and circuses, dwarfs and fat ladies, horses and elephants – or, to be specific, one elephant, Rosie, star of the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth . . .

A second chance.  That’s what I gave this book years after buying it and unable to get into it.  With the film adaptation due out in theaters a couple of weeks from now I thought I should give it another try.  I am SOOOOO GLAD I DID!!!!  I don’t know what I wasn’t connecting with when I first cracked the spine in 2006 but I didn’t even remember the first quarter of the book I had read.  At least that was where the cover of the book was placed in the pages when I pulled it off the shelf on Monday.  This week went so unbelievably quickly because I was reading this book and enjoying every word. 

Water for Elephants took me into a world that I had never read about.  The old train-touring circus’ of the early 1900’s.  Also, I wasn’t too well-read in the topic of The Great Depression.  Gruen laid out these two worlds for me and combined them so beautifully.  Reading along I found myself imagining a very brown and tan America.  Colors seemed muted through the words and the occassional pop of color came from the circus preformers, whom the townsfolk across the land paid to see just for an escape from their lives.  Gruen’s characters were rich and vibrant thoughout.  Walter and Queenie became favorites of mine as well as Rosie, Jacob and Marlena.  August was written so perfectly that I am fearful of what the magnificent Christoph Waltz will do with him in the upcoming film.  Waltz may just top his performance in Inglourious Basterds (sp is correct!) as the cunning Col. Hans Landa which he won the Oscar for last year.  In the assisted living facility where 90 or 93 year old Jacob feels he’s wasting away, Nurse Rosemary was a beam of light not only for Jacob but for me.  Kindness towards Jacob was all I wished for him in that horrible place.

Jacob!  What a fabulous character to read.  90 (or is it 93?) year old Jacob was heartwrenching to read and wonderful at the same time.  Gruen’s feel for the geriatric character, and a man no less, was so great and breathtaking.  Young Jacob who’s feelings were so raw had my heart from the moment he walked out of the morge and into a world that took him farther than I believe he would have gone had his folks survived the car crash that took their lives.  His passion and sensitivity for animals of every size was touching.  His sense of responsibility for them all was crushing at times too.  In three short months he became a hero and caregiver for Boo Boo the orangutang, Rex the toothless lion, Rosie the fabulous elephant and all the animals in between. 

Reading was not always fun with this book.  I got extremely upset with the animal cruelty portrayed in this book and I wonder how the director of the film will manage these scenes.  I can’t imagine them not making it into the film so I am concerned.

Water for Elephants has such a simple yet extremely complicated plot that kept me flipping pages ever more quickly as it progressed.  I was so moved by some parts that I found myself reading them aloud to Hubby (not his favorite thing to do just before bed) and thinking about them much later.  Can I say “Coochie Tent” and you know what I’m referncing?  Whoa!

I am sure that most of you out there in the book blogging universe have read this book already.  I believe that books find you when you are ready and I guess I wasn’t ready in 2006.  I sure was ready this week!  Water for Elephants will be on my top 10 list for 2011 (at least) because the art of storytelling is alive and well within the books pages. 

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}