Kelly Thielen's Reviews > Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
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's review
Mar 02, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: adult-young-adult, historical-fiction, coming-of-age, adult-fiction
Read in September, 2011

Jacob Jankowski is over 90 years old and sits in a retirement home. His kids come to see him once a week, but the rest of the time, he's pretty bored. He doesn't really see himself as old like the other people that live there. This week, Jacob is very excited to see his children because this week, the circus is in town and they are taking him and this causes Jacob to reflect on his time as he traveled with the circus as a young man.

When Jacob was in his early 20's and just weeks away from finishing his veterinary degree, he gets devastating news that his parents were killed in an accident. Jacob returns home to deal with the business of burying his parents and shoring up his father's business. When doing so, he finds out that his parents were broke. They had borrowed against the house and business to pay for Jacob's schooling. Jacob's plans of returning home to work with his dad are over and he is penniless. Jacob leaves Cornell University without finishing his finals and ends up on a Circus train. His skills as a vet are needed and so he ends up working for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

Unfortunately, August, the circus boss is an arrogant, abusive bully, but Jacob quickly falls for his beautiful wife Marlena, star of the equestrian act. Knowing this is wrong, Jacob keeps his distance, but time and circumstances make this harder every day. As the circus suffers the effects similar to most businesses during the Great Depression, August is looking for a way to bring more customers to the circus. He is able to buy an elephant from a defunct circus and the dollar signs in his eyes grow large. He thinks that Rosie is the breakthrough they need. Unfortunately, Rosis seems unable to do anything at all.

Marlena and Jacob grow closer as they try to train Rosie. August seems aware of this, but when Jacob discovers the secret that unlocks Rosie's talents, he can't afford to lose him - or can he?

This is a story of love and of greed and of a time when money is scarce and people would do almost anything to survive. The Benzini Brother's Circus and its leader August are no exceptions.

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