Water for Elephants (#34/50)

This was one of those books I felt a little weird reading in public because of how much I kept reacting to the story. I regularly laughed out loud, gasped in surprise, and covered my mouth in horror. The writing was vivid and completely drew me in. It was a light, entertaining read, and I would highly recommend it.

Title – Water for Elephants

Author – Sara Gruen

Page count – 331

Our narrator’s name is Jacob. The story goes back and forth between his current time as an elderly man in a nursing home and his life during the early 1930s. Early in the story, Jacob becomes involved with a traveling circus, and we get to listen to his account of that experience and how it continues to affect him later in life. Pay attention to two things: the prologue and the twist at the end. 🙂 (It’s satisfying, don’t worry. There’s nothing I dislike more than a “shocking twist” at the end that makes no sense or completely ruins the story.)

Jacob has such a caring nature and strong sense of justice. Whether it’s the people he loves or the animals under his care, he empathizes strongly with both their pain and pleasure. It was easy to feel absorbed in the worlds of both the circus and the nursing home, but my favorite moments were when Jacob was caring for the animals. For instance (page 146):

One of the chimps needs a cuddle, so I let him ride on my hip as I make my way around the tent…

“Hey, Doc,” says Pete. “Otis thinks one of the giraffes has a cold. You wanna take a look?”

“Sure,” I say.

“Come on, Bobo,” says Pete, reaching for the chimp.

The chimp’s hairy arms and legs tighten around me.

“Come on now,” I say, trying to pluck his arms free. “I’ll come back.”

Bobo moves not a muscle…

“All right. One last hug and that’s it,” I say, pressing my face against his dark fur.

The chimp flashes a toothy smile and kisses me on the cheek. Then he climbs down, slips his hand inside Pete’s, and ambles off on bowed legs.


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