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Jun 29

Water for Elephants

Category: Opinions

I recently finished one of my audio books, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s not quite my usual fare, but I did enjoy it. The story is narrated by Jake Jankowski during two points in his life, age ninety-one, or ninety-three (he’s lost track), and as a young man of twenty-one. At ninety-one, or ninety-three, Jake’s relegated to finish things out in a nursing home and he’s not particularly happy about it. Jake’s not content to eat pureed goop and stare passively at the world outside his window. In his younger days, Jake led a rather interesting life. Just before college graduation at the age of twenty-one his parents are killed in a tragic car accident. This is bad enough, until Jake discovers that his parents took on a massive amount of debt to pay his college tuition at the Cornell University school of veterinary medicine. Jake has no family, no money and no home. The car accident and the bank claimed everything respectively. Devastated, and absolutely flat broke, he drops out just before exams and, not quite thinking clearly, hops a train bound for God knows where. The train belongs to a rather dubious depression era traveling circus, full of shady characters and cheap booze. A traveling circus that just so happens to need a vet.

Water for Elephants isn’t a complicated tale. It’s a story of loss and romance, of misfits down on their luck with no place to go. Gruen does a spectacular job at painting vivid images with her prose. One can see the dingy train cars, the raucous midway, Jake’s lonely nursing home bed. Though dark quite often, the book isn’t totally bereft of hope. Jake might not be entirely lost, not quite knowing how many years are behind him. It’s definitely worth a read.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Liz K June 30th, 2008 9:27 pm

    I am happy to hear that you enjoyed the book. I agree, Gruen’s descriptions of circus life are quite incredible. I appreciate your book reviews ad comments as I am always looking for good books to read during my work commute. You are a fantastic writer 🙂 Thank you for sharing your words and your blog with me!

  2. michael July 1st, 2008 1:59 am

    Thank you!

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