I finished reading Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, this week. I loved this book! I will be looking into more works by Gruen in the future.
The meat of the story is told in flashback form. Jacob, a 93-year-old man living in a nursing home, recalls his stint as a vet on a traveling circus during the 1930s. As a young vet student at Cornell, Jacob is just about to sit for his final exams when both of his parents are killed in a car wreck. Sorting through their affairs, Jacob discovers that his family was penniless, having mortgaged their home to pay for his Ivy-league education.
Sick with grief, Jacob hops a train. A train, he discovers, that is carrying the Benzini Brothers traveling circus. Before he knows it, he's on staff as the circus vet, tending to the needs of the circus lions, chimpanzees, and other fauna. It doesn't take Jacob long to meet Marlena, the beautiful performer in charge of the trick horses, and he's instantly smitten. However, Marlena's not free; she's already married to August, a bipolar, abusive manager in the traveling outfit. (Hence the requisite love triangle.)
The rest of the tale follows Jacob as he discovers Rosie, a talented performing elephant; finds his own voice; siezes true love; and makes his way in the world.
This is a great book. It's entertaining and easy to read, but not so rote and predictable that you don't get a kick out of it. Details of circus life in the 1930s are colorful and rich. Plus, the characters are great.
A solid four stars for this one.