Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Book Review: Water for Elephants

Today is Lon's technical weekend, he has today and Friday off of work. So he's getting some much needed spring cleaning done here, and Alan gets to sit down to dinner with his father which doesn't happen but once a week (Lon normally works six nights a week, so Alan usually has dinner with me or Grandma and Grandpa Kimmel). Yay! I wonder what they'll have lol... I took out round steak, but am not sure now if Lon knows how to cook it. Hopefully... :)

I finished my book!! After only five days of reading it, with all of my daily chaos that I experience lol. :) I know, I'm pretty proud of myself too.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

(This photo thanks to

I would just like to say that I am obsessed with this book! I loved it sooooooooooo much, I think I might reread it tonight. <3

This book was a wonderfully captivating story about a young man who experiences the life as a vet on a train circus in the Depression and his life in the nursing home after. The story jumps back and forth between the man's consciousness and his memories of the circus. The young Jacob Jankowski, a college student from Cornell who's life is changed drastically when his parent's die in a wreck and his house is taken by the bank. He is instantly a vagabond, an orphan of the Depression so he jumps a train. After discovering he's jumped onto a circus train, he convinces them to let him join as their vet. And he is instantly pulled into a world of entertainment, hierarchy, back stabbing, illegal booze, and violence. Uncle Al, The ringmaster is an evil, self centered man who only likes Jacob when he's helping him out. The beautiful Marlena, the pride of the circus show, is a very lost soul in an mentally and emotionally abusive relationship who starts to find herself after meeting Jacob. August, the equestrian director, is a confusing man who will be pleasantly nice at one moment, and viciously malevolent the next. I will not give away why though, I had a feeling of what it was but was even taken a back a little by the actual reason. :) Walter or Kinko the clown, is Jacob's bunk mate who hates him at first but they become friends by the end. And then there's Rosie, the elephant Uncle Al acquires midway through the book. Everyone sees her as dumb except for Jacob, Marlena and a few other people but she surprises everyone in the end! The old Jacob Jankowski however, experiences different turmoil. He is 93 and living in a nursing home. His circus memories are suddenly flooded back to his mind when a modern circus sets up outside the home. He experiences the fear of aging and memory loss, and the sadness that unfortunately most old people feel at nursing homes- the sadness of being left behind. This book brings a blatant view to what life was like in the circus during the Depression, everyone was out for their own survival and it was a dog eat dog world. And at the same time is very upfront about the distress an elderly person goes through on a daily basis. Amazing story, truly amazing. :)

The two people I could most relate to in this story are the two main characters, Jacob and Marlena. We are share a love of animals and a sense of companionship with them. I wanted to be a vet when I was in elementary school, and only didn't pursue the career because of my squeamishness of needles and blood. I can totally relate with Marlena feeling trapped in her abusive marriage, I experienced a similar thing with an engagement my senior year of school. I can relate to Jacob also in the feeling of being homeless and hopeless. The fall of 2008, I lived in my van and slept in the back parking lot of where I worked for almost two weeks. I barely had any money, had no food but what I could get at work, and felt completely alone and hopeless until Lon invited me to live with him.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about the inside life of the circus, or to anyone who has elderly loved ones in nursing homes. No matter how old they are, they are still people, with feelings, and they should not be left alone! This book has really opened my eyes, and I vow to make a point to visit Alan's great grandparents more. <3

"In Poughkeepsie, we are raided, and for once the social strata are bridged; working men, performers and bosses alike weep and snizzle as all that scotch, all that wine, all that fine Canadian whiskey, all that beer, all that gin, and even moonshine is poured onto the gravel by straight-armed, sour-faced men. It winnows through the stones as we watch, bubbling into the undeserving earth.

And then we run out of town.

In Hartford, a handful of patrons take serious exception to Rosie's non-performance, as well as the continued presence of the Lovely Lucinda side-show banner despite the unfortunate absence of the Lovely Lucinda. The patches aren't fast enough, and before we know it disgruntled men swarm the ticket wagon demanding refunds. With the police closing in on one side and the townsfolk on the other, Uncle Al is forced to refund the whole day's proceeds.

And the we run out of town.

The following morning is payday, and the employees of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth line up in front of the red ticket wagon. The working men are in a foul humor- they know which way the wind is blowing. The first person to approach the red wagon is a roustabout, and when he leaves empty-handed the line buzzes with angry curses. The rest of the working men stalk off, spitting and swearing, leaving only the performers and bosses in line. A few minutes later, another angry buzz runs down the line, this one tinged with surprise. For the first time in the show's history, there is no money for the performers. Only the bosses are getting paid." (page 281 and 282)

This quote sums up best how much these circus workers go through on a day to day basis. It would definitely be a job for the overly cautious, I feel like you would be on your toes all the time! Jacob, Walter, and Marlena experienced some very difficult times in their life, all on that circus. Some people are just bad people, and they tend to flock to the train circuses in the Depression.

I came across this song and found it perfect for this book one night while I was reading. Lon was listening to Modest Mouse and this song came on. The lyrics are perfect and the overall sound is very harsh and in your face, much like a circus. :) Now I know the music video is about fish and the sea, but it is also brilliant. And it was directed by Heath Ledger. <3 So enjoy and listen to the lyrics! That's what made me think of the book, and the amazing brass in the band. :)

 They made it into a movie!! And it comes out in theaters THE DAY BEFORE MY WEDDING!!!! Its starring Robert Pattinson (gag lol) and Reese Witherspoon (Love!) and it looks so good! Oh my goodness, I think I might just have to go. This book made my heart sing. Really. :) Just for fun, I'll leave you with a movie poster of it!! Have a good day everyone, and I'll see you tomorrow for Five Question Friday!

(This photo thanks to

My next book review: American On Purpose:The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson
Release date: May 2011

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