Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I don’t know why it took me so long to read Water for Elephants. I mean, I’ve heard so many great things about it AND Rob Pattinson plays the lead role in the film adaptation. (Which I haven’t seen either!)

I mean, really, what’s wrong with me? 

I flew through this book in a couple of days. The story follows our protagonist Jacob Jankowski both backward and forward in time. Present day he is an invalid old man in a nursing home. But in the past he led a life of intrigue, excitement, and adventure traveling with a run-down old circus. That is, after his parents were killed in a terrible accident–leaving him penniless and causing him to quit his final year in veterinary school.

We can’t let a protagonist have living parents can we?? It would break the bounds of literature that hold the very earth aloft! MWAHAHAH!


Young Jacob loses his virginity, falls in love (a couple times), experiences abject terror, heartbreak, and best of all–what a nasty hangover feels like. Joining the circus was the best and worst time of his life. Old Jacob reflects on his past after an argument with a fellow patient sparks his memory. He struggles with being treated like less than a person just because he did the unthinkable and got old.

It really was a moving story. I absolutely adored it. But also, OMG. I knew circuses were (and still are) abusive to animals, but it is really hard to read about. Especially when the animals are intelligent and loving elephants. It’d be like beating your grandmother.

People are assholes sometimes.

Bottom line: It’s a great coming-of-age story co-mingled with the reminder to not forget that elderly are people too. Oh yeah, and midgets.

4 bearded ladies of 5

About Chelsea McDonald

As an avid reader since I was big enough to hold a book, I continue to enjoy losing myself in the thrall of a good story on a daily basis. Since many of my cohorts do not share the same passion, Cracking Spines will be the perfect outlet to express my adulation or frustration concerning the books that cross my path. In this way, my loyal followers will be able to enjoy the stories that are worthwhile and avoid the duds altogether. I also have a Shelfari account at http://www.shelfari.com/chelseamcdonald15 View all posts by Chelsea McDonald

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