Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, is one of those books that makes it to the New York Times Bestseller List because it deserves to be there, but you may not pick up and read unless one of your friends recommends it, or you become curious enough to read it after finding it in a bookstore. This book was first published in 2006, and, I must admit, I missed it. Boy, am I glad I found it!
The main character, Jacob Jankowski, is in his early nineties and living in a nursing home as the book begins. The story unfolds as a circus comes to town and sets up near the nursing home. The patients are all excited about attending, but they must have a relative or close friend be their chaperone in order to be allowed to go. Jacob has children, but none of them will be there to take him.
The story then flashes back to the time Jacob was at Cornell studying Veterinary Medicine. It continues with his leaving the university just before graduation due to a family emergency. Soon after he ends up joining the circus. The plot moves quickly from that point on. You soon discover things about a circus you always suspected as well as others you would never have imagined.
The circus people are portrayed as they were during the era of the 1930's. The bosses, roustabouts, performers, clowns, animals and all the rest are there; the good and the bad. This is a wonderful story that will amaze you, have you crying, laughing, and doing your best to determine the outcome without success. You will never view elephants, or the circus, again as most of us have our entire lives.
Praise for Water for Elephants from the Chicago Tribune is as follows: "So compelling, so detailed and vivid, that I couldn't bear to be torn away from it for a single minute."
Praise from The Washington Post: "You'll get lost in the tatty glamour of Gruen's meticulously researched world, from spangled equestrian pageantry and the sleazy side show to an ill-fated night at a Chicago speak-easy."
Hopefully, this will encourage you to try this book. If you do, let me know how you liked it.