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Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob's life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the "menagerie" and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and... he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August's wife. Not his best idea.
The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena's and Rosie's pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it--and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. --Valerie Ryan
I enjoyed this book! I felt like I was there at the circus. It would have been awesome to work with the animals, but the horrors of seeing how these animals were treated would have... Read morePublished 9 hours ago by Dianna Zimmer
This book can be pretty graphic for younger kids. I was a little surprised when I read it. Our oldest was 12 when she finished it, her teacher had recommended it. Read morePublished 17 hours ago by hereigoagain
It starts out a little slow but gets better and I ended up really enjoying the book. I would recommend it as a take along book on vacation.Published 17 hours ago by Joyce Legg
Entertaining and easy to read. I am not a big fan of love stories without foundation but I think overall that is a minor component to the story.Published 1 day ago by J. Leiser
I highly recommend this book! I wasn't sure I would like it when I first read the summary, however, I really enjoyed it!Published 3 days ago by K.H.
Loved books on tape and enjoyed this one but did not like the movie verision. The book was so much better and loved the voice of the narrator.Published 3 days ago by Avid Audio book lover
I liked how it went back and forth between the present and the past. Made me think of circuses I had been to in my youth and what might have been going on behind the scenes. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Satisfied Customer in PA
It was in excellent shape when it arrived. I read it and it is a very good story, really kept my interest! I sent it to one of my nieces to read and she loved it too. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Leela
This book found me at the right time. I remember almost buying it last year but it wouldn't have had the impact on me that it did now. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Erica M. Bartz