I decided to take a chance on Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants, after reading the rave reviews of the book posted on several social media sites by friends and acquaintances. The truth is, it is summer and I am desperate for a distraction away from my recent obsession with Grey’s Anatomy reruns fueled by Netflix’s instant queue. So I purchased the book and slowly began retreating from my computer screen that stole 42 minutes of my day as I sat captivated by Dr. Owen Hunt’s passionate kissing. Moreover, my favorite animals are elephants, so from the title I was intrigued.
As I turned the pages, I was apprehensive when I realized the circus events were flashbacks from the memory of a ninety or ninety-three-year-old man. I was not sure if I should prepare myself for a story about a man sending a woman 365 unanswered letters after one idealistic summer romance, the pinnacle approach to wooing a woman, according to Nicholas Sparks. Granted, I did connect to the tragically heartbreaking reality of the losing a faithful lover to a deteriorating mental disease, as detailed in Mr. Sparks’ novel, The Notebook. But, I was hoping Gruen would not be repeating the formula and I was pleasantly surprised.
Water for Elephants begins dark and violent as it braces readers for the tumultuous circus atmosphere during the terrible years of the Great Depression. Then Gruen shifts readers’ attention away from the eerie circus to introduce the “ninety or ninety-three year old” protagonist, Jacob Jankowski. He is living in an assisted living home, struggling to reconcile his decrepitude by raging against his helplessness. He has lived a long life and only his memories provide him solace from his aging deterioration. Oftentimes, he reminisces about his wife of “sixty-one years” who he lost to metastasized cancer and the painful relief of being the survivor. Now what remains, or rather what he has left to offer are his stories about joining the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular...
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