Water for Elephants: | Teen Ink

Water for Elephants:

November 19, 2007
By Anonymous

Water for Elephants: A Review

“You didn't just jump a train, boy. You done jumped the Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.” These words smack twenty-year-old Jacob Jankowski over the head like an 8000 pound elephant. Training as a veterinarian at Cornell, Jacob's life takes a drastic turn when his parents are killed in a car crash. With no money and no family, Jacob does what all troubled youth do and hops on a passing train. Unfortunately for him, this train is no ordinary one, and Jacob is shoved into circus life as the menagerie's vet.

At the circus, Jacob finds two loves: an elephant named Rosie, who responds only to Polish, and Marlena, the performer who is as beautiful and talented as she is kind and good-natured. However, conflict arises when Marlena's husband, August, another performer, suspects their affections. Afflicted with a mental disorder, August is capable of both extreme kindness and cruelty. Jacob, of course, develops a deep hatred of August, and vows to free Marlena from his clutches.

Flash back to the present: Jacob Jankowski sits in a nursing home. He is fed up with the pockmarked Jell-O, delusional roommates, and thickheaded caretakers that form his daily life. Resigned to his fate of dying forgotten in his sterilized room, Jacob loses himself in memories of the circus, of Rosie, and of his Marlena. But does this ninety-year-old have some life in him yet?

Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants has it all: action, romance, and a circus full of exotic animals and colorful characters. Her vivid, in-the-moment writing style kept me glued to each page, itching to learn the fate of Jacob and Marlena. The prologue opens with a murder: “She lifted the stake high in the air and brought it down, splitting his head like a watermelon. His pate opened, his eyes grew wide, and his mouth froze into an O. He fell to his knees and then toppled forward into the straw.” After just a minute of reading, my mind was spinning with questions; I was hooked.

I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for an entertaining, gripping, and emotional read. This book does contain some obscene language and adult content, although all is used to propel the plot forward. A must for anyone keeping up with bestsellers, Water for Elephants gets my vote.

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