Water for Elephants

May 7th. 2010

I bought this book on one of the sale bins at a big box store–surprised that it was there. Wasn’t that like finding a diamond in the straw field? I’d heard people chat up the novel, so I paid all of $5.99 and brought it home where it collected dust on my reading table for months. Poor book. If covers have feelings this one would have been blue. BUT, here in an insane time in my family’s life (son graduating high school, husband caught up in a local bond election battle, daughter trying out for officer on her drill team, and me with writing deadlines) I decided that I need a spot of fun so I opened the book and started reading about Jacob Janokowsi, a man either 91 or 93. It wasn’t long before I realized this was a gritty, portrayal of depression-era circus life totally unlike anything I’d expected. (It’s not hard to care for the elephants more than the people after reading of their conditions.) Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a fun read, but it was gripping. And with the detailed research Sara Gruen weaves into the story, a very dark story arises from behind the curtain. I’d known about the squalid conditions, but reading a novelized account of them makes the stink smell bad–real bad. Can’t say I loved this book. But I won’t forget it.

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