by Sara Gruen
I really enjoyed this book. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.
The world of the train circus Gruen creates is thoroughly fascinating and engrossing. It was like reading about a foreign country, a totally unfamiliar culture, complete with exotic animals. "Water for Elephants" is a really well thought out and well-crafted story that reels you in right from the onset.
Each character Gruen created feels genuine and believable. I bought into every situation and reaction. It's a book I didn't want to put down!
I only have two small issues with the book: It took Jacob too long to figure out Rosie only understood Polish. And I don't understand why Jacob carried around so much guilt for such a long time. What happened wasn't his fault; really it wasn't anyone's fault. Though he did explain that elephant executions were common at the time. Still, I think he could have told Marlena and nothing would have changed between them. His guilt was important to the story, but in relation to what happened and to his life, I think it was unnecessary. I was expecting him to be holding some horrible secret, and really it wasn't that awful.
Jacob gets a hard-knock education in life and love during his three months with the Benzini Brother's Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Initially I had my doubts about his abilities to survive, but he quickly integrates himself into circus life and endears himself to many through his charm, hard work, and open heart.
I can see why it was chosen to be developed into a movie. It is vivid and expansive and, I think, easily lends itself to film.
"Water for Elephants" is for any reader looking for an enthralling story, complete with star-struck love, deception, suffering of all varieties, and in the midst of all that, a circus! Gruen wrote a remarkable story that deserves to be read again and again.