I've been wanting to read "Water for Elephants" (421 pages) by Sara Gruen for quite some time. Lucky for me my friend Kim brought a copy of the book with her on a trip we took last weekend to Louisian. I shamelessly stole her book for the long drive home yesterday through Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, well you get the point... From Goodreads:
"Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival."
"Water for Elephants" is a lovely book on many levels. The circus, the Depression era of the story, and the wide variety of characters certainly made it an interesting read if for no other reason. I think it would have been wild to experience a circus or carnival in the 1920's and 1930's. This isn't usually the kind of novel I would go for in general but the love story and bond between the very different three major characters captivated me well enough to read the book in a day.
There's not really much more I can add from the book's description above. Highly recommended. The only minor complaint I would have is that some of the characters could have been fleshed out a little more, especially August and Marlena, but I'm probably just being a little too greedy. I guess now I should go see the movie.