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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.
Fantastic book. A must read. I couldn't put the book down. Now it is one of my favorite books of all time.Published 5 days ago by Jessica Ratkovich
This book is definitely not my regular genre, but I enjoyed it very much and was happy I broke out of my comfort zone to read it.Published 5 days ago by Betsy Spiro
Great story telling with so authentic detail as to make the reader feel they are there and in the heads of the characters. Read morePublished 5 days ago by C. Craig Coleman
I found the book very entertaining. Enjoyed the history of the circus. Angry at the cruelty to animals and people. Would recommend this book to others.Published 7 days ago by Lois Arnold
This is the second time i read this book. I did it because I joined a new book club and they are reading this book. I think I got more joy out of this book the second. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Kindle Customer