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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Water for Elephants

#42 Book Read in 2012
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I have put off reading this book for a while now because I was afraid that I would not be able to handle the way the animals were treated in it.  After a few friends read, they assured me that I would be able to handle it, so I added it to the reading list for a class I am teaching this summer.  Boy, am I glad that I did!

Part of this book is set in a nursing home, where an elderly Jacob is living and waiting for his famiy to visit so they can bring him to the circus.  The majority of this book is set in a circus, a second rate circus who really wants to be Ringling Bros.  Jacob joins the circus and is considered their vet, even though he does not have his official degree from Cornell.  He meets the circus folk and instantly forms a love/hate relationship with August and an attraction relationship with August's wife, Marlena.  

Circus life is not easy and this book shows it.  Animals are treated as property and receive basic, minimum care.  There is a huge class distinction between workers and performers.  Money is given out in order of the caste system.  There are nice people like Walter, Earl and Greg.  There are evil people like Uncle Al.  The most despicable character in this book is August.  He abused his wife, his animals and his workers.  I was hoping for justice and felt satisfied with how August ends up.

There is also some not so dark relationships in this book. Jacob and Marlena share a deep connection and they spend time together, even though it is forbidden.  Walter loves his dog Queenie.   Jacob has a connection with the animals, especially Bobo and Rosie.  Camel gets Jacob a job with the show.  There are good people in this book and readers will root for them.

A difficult at times book to read, it was also powerful.  I recommend it.

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