By Sara Gruen
Completed June 3, 2007
How many ways can you love?
In this novel, Gruen explores the many ways to love. Man and woman, human and animal, parent and child, man and life – every variation of how humans (and animals) love each other is the focus of Gruen’s delightful tale.
Gruen uses dual storylines for her love story. The most prominent story is of Jacob, a twenty-three year old veterinarian who joins the circus after his parents’ sudden death. There, he meets many colorful characters, including Walter (aka Kinko) – a four-foot clown, Camel – an old circus hand, Rosie – the loyal elephant, August – an enraged animal director, Marlena – the beautiful performer, and Big Al – the selfish circus owner. Jacob (and the reader) learns the circus vernacular, such as cooch tents, rubes and redlighting, and the circus culture. During these chapters, Gruen paints a beautiful and realistic portrait of 1930’s circuses, complete with photos from the era. Lovers of the HBO drama, Carnivale, should feel right at home with this book.
The secondary story line follows Jacob as a ninety (or maybe ninety-three) year old man, who is in a nursing home where he feels that the other residents, nursing staff and doctors constantly want to hold him back. But what Jacob really wants to do is go, go, go. Not ready for death, he still has a sense of adventure in his bones. Where will his restless spirit take him?
I highly recommend Water for Elephants to lovers of love stories everywhere. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by this rich tale. ( )