- Title: Water for Elephants
- Author: Sara Gruen
- Genre: Historical Romance
- Structure: Linear first-person
- First Line: “Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook.”
The good is great. I’ll summarize for you in my usual five points. There’s more than these five points, but I think these are great starters.
- The book moves relatively fast. (See my note under “The Bad”). Once it gets going, you’re going to be whipping through the pages just to keep up.
- The writing is phenomenal. I’ve read very few authors who can write like Gruen. She is captivating and articulate. The way she writes gives you no choice but to live in the novel. And, let’s face it, those are the best books.
- The storyline is unique and interesting. This isn’t your typical book, but it’s not so far out there that you can’t relate to it. Every chapter brought a new element to the scene that usually had me biting my nails in suspense!
- The main characters are all flawed. For some people, this is a negative. We want a perfect hero. However, I find it refreshing that each one has the potential to be “the bad guy” because it’s an excellent display of their humanity.
- It draws out strong emotions. There were times that I laughed out loud. There were a couple times when I had to close the book and stare into space because I couldn’t believe that just happened. There was a few times where I got teary-eyed (a rare occurence). Gruen did a fantastic job at this novel.
It starts slow. However, it could be worse. I think she took too much time giving background on the main character’s parents without creating any sort of emotional attachment or referencing to them later on in the story. It’s as though it was information thrown into the wind. I kept waiting for there to be something more, but there wasn’t.
In addition, be warned that the content is pretty graphic. It was a little too graphic for my tastes, but the writing was superb so I kept with it.
The Sweet Spots
In this section, I cover some of my deeper, personal thoughts. Books are meant to make you think. I always think the best books are the ones that help you discover pieces of yourself.
- Did this book remind you of anything that has happened to you?: I felt a strong connection to the main character, Jacob, as a young guy trying to discover himself. I also felt a strong connection to the character Marlena, who is a talented woman in an abusive relationship. Gruen does an excellent job at portraying what such relationships look like and I think it’s an accurate portrayal of what many women are facing today. Abuse is a hot topic right now, especially with a large feminist movement happening globally.
- Did this book give you any new ideas of yourself?: I think it awoke a more creative side of me. The story is so unusual and not one of you typical fiction novels. I think it showed me that not everything has to be so clean-cut. It’s okay to err on the side of nontraditional because that’s where the magic happens.
- What lesson did you learn?: Life doesn’t always happen the way you plan. But, if you decide to ride the wave, it could end up better than you plan. Not every lesson life throws your way is going to seem like you can handle it, but there’s always a solution. You’re never stuck.
I think this book is a must-read. Be weary of the graphic content. The novel moves fast, which makes it a quick read. The story is so rich and unique, you’ll get hooked.