Water for Elephants
A NovelBook - 2006
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.
Jacob was there because his luck had run out--orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act--in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.
From the critics
Age SuitabilityAdd Age Suitability
ArapahoeCheryl thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over
rachelhoback thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 56
Michelle M. Veilleux thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over
Violence: fighting, blood, nothing too bad but may be frightening to young people
SummaryAdd a Summary
Jacob Jankowski is just a normal, young adult that is studying at college to become a vet. However, everything changes when both his parents died. Homeless and without any money, Jacob takes his chances by jumping onto a passing train. There he is welcomed as a vet for the animals. As the days go on, he's become great friends with August, a circus boss, and his wife Marlena, a performer. Slowly Jacob begins to fall in love with Marlena and hate August for his cruelty to the animals and other men. Meanwhile, the circus buys an elephant named Rosie, who at first seemed stupid and worthless, was soon a main act of the show, thanks to Jacob. Then August accuses Jacob and Marlena of having an affair behind his back, which made him go into a madmen state, beating up Jacob and hitting his own wife. Suffering enough of the abuse, Marlena divorces him and Jacob was there immediately to support her. As Uncle Al (overall circus manager) realizes that August is becoming difficult to work with due to his hate for himself because of what he did to Marlena and Jacob, he forces Jacob to try to get Marlena and August back together. However, Jacob doesn’t follow the command, still having affairs with Marlena, but when his two close friends gets 'redlighted', he realizes that Uncle Al was going after him. Luckily enough, a terrible stampede happened on the next circus act, leaving many of the workers homeless, and August and Uncle Al dead. Jacob immediately marries Marlena and decide to join Ringling's circus, where they had their first child. As the story goes, another story unfolding as well - the one with Jacob as ninety or ninety three (it's a debate throughout the book) reflecting on what happened through his life in the circus and his life now, in a nursing home with others of his own age or younger. In the end, even though no one came to visit Jacob and take him to the circus near the senior’s home, Jacob was determined and arrived at the circus on his own. There, he meets the manager of the circus who listens to his story and offers him a job in the circus as a ticket holder, and never does Jacob go back to the nursing home.