book of the week: water for elephants

I’ve made the decision to read at least one book a week for the rest of the summer. I want to do this because over the school year, I really don’t have the time to fully commit myself to a book, and I like to read fast.

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I’ve held onto this book for years. I think I picked it up at a library book sale, but who can really be sure at this point? I have such a large collection of both old and new books, I can’t keep track. Anyway, I brought it back to Molly’s house for the summer, in hopes of finally checking it off my “Need to Read” list. Thankfully, I’ve been working at a USCAN station at my job recently, which basically means I stand in one spot and stare at 4 self-checkout stations for 7 hours. It’s boring, but at least I get to read!

This book started off slow, I’ll admit. It has a flashback style of writing, kind of like The Notebook. The main character is Jacob Jankowski, a 90-93 year old Polish man in a retirement home. He’s grumpy, he doesn’t want to be there, and his wife recently died. Then there’s word that the circus is coming in a few days, and the flashbacks begin. When he was younger, he studied at Cornell to become a veterinarian so he could work at his father’s practice. Unfortunately, his parents die in a car crash before he can graduate, and in his grief, he runs away. He stumbles upon a train passing by, jumps on, and discovers the world of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

What I like most about this book is it is a historical novel. Because of this, the author, Sara Gruen, was able to find pictures of the circus, and inserts them at the beginning of nearly every chapter. This detail just adds to the overall tone of the book, and also helps when picturing what the characters look like.



Water for Elephants is filled with adventure, sadness, and love. Some parts of it were hard to read because it depicts the bad side of the circus industry; i.e. animal abuse. The detail in those parts was heart-wrenching, but necessary. And it has a good ending, so it all works out.


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