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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 thought the author ruined what could have been a very good book by adding explicit sexual content. Read morePublished 4 hours ago by Lisa
Much better than the movie. A very intricate storyline. The story draws you in and I found it hard to put down.Published 1 day ago by Wendi Pryor
I don't know why I put off reading this for so long. Something about the title was misleading. It is actually a very exciting adventure/mystery with twists and turns and complex... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Wynreader
A wonderful book. I have recommended it to several friends who all enjoyed it as well. I truly loved the ending.Published 2 days ago by Tina Holt
Everything you ever wanted to know how life revolves around circus performers and their animals. Also enjoyed reading the thoughts of the 92 year old Jacob describing why the... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Reader