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July 29, 2016

Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Published: May 1st, 2007
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Length: Paperback, 335 pgs

GoodReads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Orphaned and penniless, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight train in the dark, and in that instant, transforms his future.
By morning, he's landed a job with the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By nightfall, he's in love.
In an America made colourless by prohibition and the Depression, the circus is a refuge of sequins and sensuality. But behind the glamour lies a darker world, where both animals and men are dispensable. Where falling in love is the most dangerous act of all...

For all our GCReaders, I'm going to try to put into words for you how much I adored this book...it won't be easy.

I stumbled upon Water for Elephants by accident.  As you may have noticed, it's not exactly new. It was published back in '07 and has even been turned into a film back in 2011. But while looking for new books to read at the library, I saw this book on a best-seller list and couldn't resist. The cover alone had me hooked. There's so much mystery and intrigue under that tent that you can't help but want to find out more.

The story follows a young man named Jacob Jankowski who has had his life drastically turned upside down in just a few days. One day, he was on a path pre-destined for him (practically since birth) and the next day, he has no parents, no degree, no money, and no place to live. It is in this dire circumstance that Jacob lands himself on a train -- lands himself as a part of the circus.

The story is told from two points of view. One is of young Jacob and his adventures with the circus and his crush on a beautiful woman who is definitely off-limits. The second story is told from the point of view of an older Jacob, who's 92 or 93 years old, living in a nursing home. Going back and forth between these two different story-lines is heartbreaking and breathtaking. On the one hand, you have this young Jacob -- vibrant, full-of-life, ready to take whatever life throws at him. And on the other hand, older Jacob is trapped. He can't do anything without a nurse watching him 24 hours a day and is barely visited by his family. As you fall in love with this character, you find yourself getting angrier and angrier when you see how his life has changed from one story to the other.

There is (as there usually is) a fantastic love story hidden within the pages. But I can't say too much without giving it all away. All I'll mention is that the connection and chemistry is felt deeply between Jacob and his love. It feels authentic and draws you more into the book with each turning of a page.

Sara Gruen is a phenomenal author. This novel has made it's way to the top of my all-time favorite list and is a book I can't wait to read again and again.

5 out of 5 stars! 

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know!!


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