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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I could not put this book down once I started reading it. I think the treatment of Rosi e was awful and was happy when she was treated better. Read morePublished 3 hours ago by bethyann
Review from a friend who was reading it:
Not recommended for younger audiences. I was not even that far in and I had to close it because of detailed "sexual"... Read more
It would have been just as good without the language. This limits readers, who would otherwise enjoy the story. I did enjoy the story.Published 1 day ago by Amazon Sanborn
I loved this book and the details in it! I did not want it to end. It was like I in the story with them.Published 2 days ago by Danielle
This book took a little too get moving, but once it did you became emotionally attached to the animals and hoped they'd survivePublished 3 days ago by w. lucero
i really liked it so much....nice memories of small traveling circuses......nice story with back ground of people ......the ending was very special loved the old man...... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Ila Martin ilaMartin
Gruen had me hooked in the opening pages when I found myself nodding in agreement with the frustrations of getting old, and especially having to depend on others for help. Read morePublished 3 days ago by A. J. Chapel