Monday, January 5, 2009

Water For Elephants

Thanks in large part to a cold that kept me quiet over this past long weekend, I was able to read Water For Elephants. I remember going to the circus only once. It was Ringling Bros. and I was probably 7 or 8 years old; I didn't like it very much. Besides being frightened by the clowns, I remember a general rankness which I attribute to a mixure of animal smells combined with those of frying food and "red hots." Although my mother would not take us into the "freak show," we nevertheless had to walk past the tent that displayed the carney art depicting "Shrimp Boy." Ever since that day, when she talks about the circus at all, my mother will say she "hates" it. With my background, I approached Water For Elephants somewhat tentatively. However, my son's girlfriend gave me a copy for Christmas, and assured me it was a wonderful book. It was. The protagonist, Jacob Jankowski, tells his story from the perspective of a 93 year old man (at least he's quite certain he's 93) who resides in a nursing home. It weaves in and out of the past and the present, as he relives for the reader his life in a third rate circus during the Great Depression. Sara Gruen introduces us to the strange (sometimes wonderful, sometimes twisted) characters that ride the circus train from town to town, telling their story - and Jacob's - in such a lovely way that even I enjoyed being a part of their world for a short while. The best part...just when you think you know how it's all going to doesn't. This is a super read.

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