It isn't uncommon for me to read a bestseller well after it was released. This book has been on my bookshelf for quite some time and for some reason I kept putting off reading it. I hate it when I hear so much praise for a book because I get nervous that it won't live up to it. I'm sorry to say, that is how I felt about Water for Elephants.
It all started with Jacob up and leaving his final exams in order to become a vet. I do understand that tragedy changes people, but when he realizes how much his parents gave up in order for him to go to school there, it seemed weird that he would throw that all away to join a circus...not the most lucrative choice.
August, Marlena and Uncle Al. Where do I even start? Well, let me begin with August (there are some spoilers here, so if you don't want to know don't read on, lol). I can't believe that a circus owner (Uncle Al) would continue to not only employ someone, but have them in a position of such power when he knew he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Especially when he had seen the rage take over. This is a business and I don't care how good he was at his job, when he was bad, he was true evil. His abuse of the animals and people throughout the book didn't sit well with me at all. I'm not saying that the character wasn't written well, I just didn't buy that the owner would allow it to continue.
And what kind of owner was he? Well, a downright awful and malicious man himself. Not paying workers but making sure that the performers got paid (well, at least most of the time), tossing people from moving trains, taking advantage of people when they were the lowest they could be. You might think that explains why he kept August on, but he was greedy and it was all about money - to me August was just too much of a risk.
And Marlena. Jacob is fascinated by her from their first meeting. As they spend more time together you are led to believe that they are in love. Again, I struggled a little with this. I think that Marlena was comparing Jacob to August and seeing a good man who would treat her well. And I think that Jacob was infatuated with her, and because he was a virgin it made it all the more special when she took his virginity, especially considering the circumstance surrounding it.
My favorite part of the book was 'old' Jacob - telling his tale from the nursing home. I do think that the author is extremely talented, and love the fact that this surrounded circus life - not something you see in a book very often. I live a few hours from Baraboo, WI and have actually been to the Circus World Museum, home to Ringling Bros. I would say to give it a shot and see what you think.