Written by Lauryn Smith
Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” is my favorite book. It is the best. The absolute best. The story’s plot is unusual, but, man, is it presented well.
“Water for Elephants” is the fictional story of Jacob Jankowski, who in his twenties loses his parents in a car crash. Despondent and penniless, he walks out of his final veterinary school examination, and after hours of wandering, jumps a random freight train.
It is what this train holds that changes his life.
Gruen presents Jacob’s tale as if it were being told by his adult self, or rather his 90- (or 93-) year-old self. Widowed and alone in a nursing home, Jacob rejects the life he is now forced to live—mushy and flavorless food, tranquilizers, sponge baths, supervised trips to the bathroom. But one day, the circus sets up shop in the parking lot across the street, exciting all of the facility's residents, Jacob in particular.
Why? Because that train he jumps as a young man belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth—a traveling circus.
As luck would have it, the Benzini show needs a veterinarian, giving Jacob enjoyable, albeit dirty, work. In this glamorous, lively retreat in a United States afflicted with prohibition and the Depression, Jacob finds love and passion—as well as wickedness.
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