Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This was the book we discussed at book club on Monday. I suggested the book and had heard some of it on Chapter a Day on NPR and my friend Carol had sent me the book.

The book was enjoyed by all.

Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of a young man who leaves his life as a Cornell University veterinary student and jumps onto a train that happens to house the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. After a short confrontation with Blackie, a bouncer that stops stowaways, and Camel (a limp old worker) promising him a job and an audience with Uncle Al (The Ringmaster) Jacob decides to stay aboard the train. Since his parents have died in an automobile accident, and he has not a home to call his own, he decides that joining the circus is his last resort. The story is told as a series of memories. The main character, Jacob Jankowski, is in a nursing home and reminisces about his time with the circus. Jacob is employed as the show’s veterinarian and he faces a number of challenges in dealing with the head trainer, August, while also learning how to function in the hierarchy of the circus and falling in love.

In part the book was enjoyed as it gave a real picture of this time period. I enjoy books that do that. You felt the poverty, the lack of choices available and felt the excitement that the circus brought to all.

I would not have just picked this book up on my own as the cover screams 'Circus' (as it should). It is certainly one I am glad tht I did not miss. And I was particularly charmed by the fairy tale like ending.