Monday, June 29, 2015

Audiobook / Banned Book / TBR Pile: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is about a young man named Jacob who loses everything and needs to find his place in the world. He decides to join the circus in the days when they traveled on trains from town to town. The book also tells about Jacob decades later in a nursing home. Feeling lost again, he searches his past for a solution to the unhappiness and loneliness he's dealing with now.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I find this story really interesting. Gruen gives great perspective to the reader by switching between Jacob at 90 (or 93) and at 23. I'm curious as well about her research and historical accuracy--life in the circus, interactions of Polish vs. Jewish people, etc. I know some of what's going to happen from the prologue, but I'm also curious about how Jacob gets from that place to his elderly life. Happily married with five kids, and did he ever get a veterinary practice? Some of her numbers seem to be off on the timeline of his life. The book starts off a bit sad, but I'm really enjoying it now.

Conclusion: This is a great book. Gruen has fantastic writing style, well-developed characters, and meaningful action--everything you can ask for to really enjoy what you are reading. The timeline makes more sense when you find out what happened after the stampede. The author had it well planned-out and purposely gave tidbits once in a while, so I didn't know the complete story until the end. There were times where I was incredibly frustrated by what was happening, but it helped me to feel closer to my characters and drew me in. And did I mention that I loved Rosie? What a great sense of humor and honor in one unexpected character! I was particularly fascinated by the parts about Jacob as an elderly man. There aren't a lot of books written from the perspective of someone living in a nursing home who doesn't actually need special food and attention. There also aren't a lot of books set in the early days of circuses, so this book is quite the unique find. I'll definitely read more by Gruen in the future.

Recommendation: If you have a penchant for slightly quirky but intricate, unique book ideas, this is a good book for you. There also seems to be validity to Gruen's research, so if you're interested in circus life in the train days, this might be a good read for you, as well.

This is my seventh read for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge, my sixth read for the 2015 Banned Book Challenge, and my twelfth read for the 2015 TBR Pile Challenge. Chugging right along!


  1. Wow, Water For Elephants is a banned book?? I didn't know this!! I haven't read this book... Mainly because I've heard it is sad and deals with mistreatment of circus animals.

    1. It is very sad, and there is a lot of animal mistreatment. It's very well-written and realistic for that situation and time period. But don't read it if you have trouble with that! I struggled through parts of the book for that reason but found it worth the struggle in the end.

    2. I forgot to say this, but I think the banning is probably because of that. There is mistreatment of animals, violence between people, some foul language....I find that many banned books teach me more about other cultures and time periods, though.

    3. Even though this book isn't for me (I don't think I could read the animal cruelty/mistreatment parts without crying or being upset), I don't think it should be banned for goodness sakes. It does sound like a wonderful read otherwise. :-)

    4. Yeah, I don't ever agree with banning books. How are we supposed to learn about other people and situations if not through books? Maybe Gruen's next book will be a better choice for you to experience her excellent writing; I think it has something to do with a search for the Loch Ness Monster.

    5. Ooo, I like the idea of reading about the loch ness monster!!

    6. Ooo, I like the idea of reading about the loch ness monster!!