Book Review: Water for Elephants

Jessica Bischoff, Guest Critic

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Water for Elephants is a New York Times Bestseller written by Sara Gruen. It was the recipient of the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction, and was adapted for the big screen in 2011 starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

The story is told through the memories of Jacob Jankowski, a 93- year- old man in a nursing home. There, he is told what to do, and his life is decided for him. He first thinks back to the year he was preparing to take his his final veterinary exams when he was suddenly struck by tragedy. This life-changing event leads him onto a rickety train that is home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

While traveling with the circus, he becomes acquainted with Marlena, an equestrian star, and her husband August, the charismatic animal trainer with a volatile temper. Because he went through school and was almost a veterinarian, Jacob ends up in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. When Uncle Al, the somewhat mentally unstable ringleader, purchases Rosie, an elephant that was supposed to be the salvation of his traveling circus, everything is turned upside down because Rosie refuses to respond to commands. As an unlikely bond formed between Marlena, Jacob, and Rosie, they all have to trust each other in order to make it out of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and escape the wrath of August.

Back in the present, Jacob is waiting in the nursing home for one of his children to take him to the circus, and more is revealed about his life with Marlena. The story ends with his memories of escaping from the circus leading to another great escape at near the end of his life. This is a wonderful book for anyone who enjoys compelling story lines, as it is nearly impossible not to be drawn in as the events of Jacob’s past unfold. I highly recommend watching the movie or checking out this amazing book!

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Book Review: Water for Elephants