Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Review: Jacob Jankowski, a 90 or 93 year old man, living in a retirement residence drifts between dreams and daydreams of a time in his youth when he was working and living with a travelling circus. Wrenched from his “ordinary” life with mom and dad to a life where every day is an unpredictable chaos, Jacob manages to find friends, himself, and the love of his life. Some readers may find it a little difficult to find that in one chapter, Jacob wakes up in his retirement residence and the next he’s back in the circus, but I feel that it added to the story. I believe the author did this so that we feel just as Jacob does when he’s drifting and dozing in the retirement residence. He’s not sure exactly what reality is anymore and he doesn’t feel nearly as old as he looks, or is. The story left me a little heartbroken yet hopeful. I was fascinated with the photographs included and impressed that Sara Gruen went to great lengths to research circuses from this time period to get it just right. Historical, romantic, tragic; this story will leave you rooting for Jacob, tissue in hand.
Conclusion: This novel is an award-winner for a clear reason. It deserves the highest score or 5/5 stars.
About the Author: Sara Gruen was born in Vancouver, lived in London, Ontario, and went to university in Ottawa. She now lives with her husband and three children in a conservation community outside of Chicago. Her fiction debut, Riding Lessons, was an international bestseller. Water for Elephants, her third novel, was the winner of the 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Award and a winner of the ALA Alex Award. (source: Harper Perennial)
Discussion Questions: Has this book made you think differently about elderly people in general or even your own grandparents or parents? What did you think about the photographs inside the book? Have you been to a circus? What was your favourite part?
For more information: http://saragruen.com/water-for-elephants/