Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: Book Review

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Water for Elephants

4 Stars

Twenty-three-year-old Jacob Jankowski has just lost his parents in a car crash. They had already lost everything in the Great Depression. In a devastating bout of grief, Jacob, a vet school student, walks out of his final exams at Cornell University. He ends up working for a circus as the vet. His boss, August, is an unstable man who treats the animals and his employees cruelly. Jacob feels helpless to assist those in his care in the face of August’s unpredictable wrath. Despite all this, Jacob at the age of 93 (or is it 90?) looks back frequently to his time with the circus and the people and animals he met there.

First of all, let me just say here that I love Rosie the elephant. She has more personality than most of the other characters combined. What a charming rogue! I’m ready to give her a home in my backyard!

Okay, with that out of the way, I’ll say that I was hooked from the first page of this book. I read it in one very nice 12-hour shift at work. I was pulling for Jacob and his friends and I just had to make sure that they came through okay. I got so engrossed that at one point I gasped and cried, “Oh no!” Then looked around to make sure no one had heard me. I lose myself in books frequently. I don’t talk out loud to books much, if ever. Sara Gruen had caught me in her spell all right.

Without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say that there were a few things that I didn’t quite buy that kept me from giving this five stars. But I did honestly enjoy it and I’m glad that I read it. In fact, I wish I hadn’t fought so long against the tide of public opinion and read it sooner.

Reviewed March 14, 2009

The movie comes out today! I’m not at all sure what I think of Robert Pattinson as Jacob, but Reese Witherspoon is always a delight.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Sara Gruen on her website.

Buy Water for Elephants at

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  1. LOL! I love when a book is so good you start talking out loud to it. And, yeah, I've done it in public and glanced around to see if anyone noticed. I think I'm going to give in and read this one too.

  2. I am going to see the movie tonight because I really loved the book. I am sad to see that you didn't love the book as much as I did, but sometimes books get too much hype.

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