Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Book #1: Water for Elephants
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been praised by reviewers around the world? Sara Gruen has created an incredibly imaginative world filled with vivid characters and gripping chapters that truly makes the reader feel as though they are actually part of the Benzini circus.
Story: Jacob Jankowski is suddenly orphaned when his parents die in a car accident and his entire future of working in his dad’s vet office goes out the window. This causes him to go into a bit of a Forrest Gump trance where he looks at some train tracks and just keeps walking. Enter, the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth! Well, the train, that is. Jacob enters the train and is whisked into the magic and wonder of the circus business. He gets a job and finds out fast that a circus is more than some animals and a tent. Here he also meets Marlena, the beautiful performer for the liberty horses act, and August, her charming but flawed husband. As Jacob begins to fall for Marlena he also sees the dark side of August and the risk of his affections. In a journey that brings him friends, danger, and love, Jacob’s life is changed by his experience in the circus.
I don’t think I could have started the cannonball with a more fascinating book. What’s even more interesting is that many of Gruen’s anecdotes were taken from true stories. One of my favorite: the lemonade for the circus continues to be stolen but no one knows who the culprit is. We eventually learn that the new elephant, Rosie, (who everyone believes to be incompetent) is actually pulling her own stake from the ground to drink the whole stand of lemonade, then goes back to her tent to return the stake. The whole book is filled with fun stories like these paired with the actual plot with Jacob.
One feature of her book was both a love and hate for me. Jacob himself is narrating for us and because of this the chapters shift between the actual plot and his life as a ninety year old. Or ninety three. He’s never sure of his true age yet he remembers the circus as if it was yesterday. I can’t imagine how Gruen was able to get into the shoes of an old man trapped away in a retirement home but she is flawless. The reason this is also a hate for me is purely for selfish reader reasons. I would be on the edge of my seat to find out what will possibly happen next only to turn the page and have the age be shifted to present day. Don’t get me wrong; each shift tells a fascinating chapter ,I just felt like the dear Gruen was toying with me by forcing the wait to see what happens next. All in all, this book is amazing. Water for Elephants has restored my faith in the power of a good book.