Water For Elephants

By Sara Gruen

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

ISBN: 1565124995


Water For Elephants is a remarkable accomplishment, a wonderful book with colorful, unforgettable characters. It is by turns heartwarming, heartbreaking, exciting, and horrifying—with an ending that took me by surprise. I enjoy circus stories and have read several, none as good as this one (with the exception of Gus the Great). If you’re old enough to remember the film The Greatest Show on Earth, this is it but without the slick DeMille romanticism. Water for Elephants is raw and realistic, one man’s life in a circus and in a nursing home.


One of the most remarkable things is not even the circus part of the story. It’s the nursing home part of the story. The author appears to be fairly young, several decades too young to know what it feels like to be elderly, what it’s like to know you are failing physically, and afraid you’re failing mentally, what it’s like to remember when you were young and know you will never be young again. And yet… she very convincingly shows you the heart and mind of this feisty old man. One of the best historical novels I have ever read. I wish I had written it.