If you like: Circus Performers * The Depression * Love Stories
The only thing I knew about Water for Elephants before I started reading it was that Robert Pattinson played the main character in the film adaptation. Though that did not encourage me to read the book, a good friend’s recommendation did. I was pleasantly surprised, and really enjoyed the story.
In Water for Elephants, Gruen crafts an intriguing tale. Gruen seamlessly blends together the events of present day with the main events of the 1930s. We follow the protagonist, ninety-three-year-old Jacob, as he relives his memories of working in a circus menagerie when a big top is set up outside his assisted living center. The transitions between Jacob’s memories and his life evoke strong feelings of waking up from a day dream.
Based on the title, I expected this to be a story that was focused on caring for elephants. Though animals do play an important part in this story, they are not the main focus. (Animal husbandry of the time period might also make some animal lovers uncomfortable.) Water for Elephants tells the story of struggling to survive in desperate circumstances; the difficulty exists just as much in the late stages of life as during the depression. Jacob’s story is one of being true to yourself and your morals, no matter how dire the circumstances. Though he endures many wrongs, Jacob continues to find ways to get what he wants, while taking care of his friends. Life doesn’t always go your way, but everyone has hardships and you have a choice how to deal with it.
Don’t let “Edward” discourage you from reading this book.
Gruen, Sara. Water for Elephants: A Novel. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2007. Kindle Edition.