Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
A Black Cat Book Review
Jacob Jankowski is 90 or 93, he doesn’t remember which, lving in a nursing home and all he has is his memories.
He remembers his plans to join his father’s veterinary practice as soon as he graduates from Cornell. He remembers a girl he thought he loved. And he remembers the day it all changed and he ran away and joined the circus.
What he remembers most vividly is the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, beautiful Marlena, abusive and insane August, the dwarf, Kinko and his dog Queenie, and the elephant, Rosie. He hasn’t told anyone at the nursing home about the circus because of what happened there and the secret he has never told anyone.
Life with the Benzini Brothers circus was brutal. Animals, and people, were abused and used until no longer able to perform or there was no money to pay them. Then they were disposed of quickly.
Through it all Jacob maintains his integrity and comes to love all the animals, and some people, of the circus. He also learns what cruelty is and to hate those who use it to get what they want.
Jacob was, and still is, a good man who, like everyone, has had good and bad in his life. But not like everyone he has kept an awful secret for 70 years.
When a circus sets up across the street from the nursing home Jacob is determined to go and see the Greatest Show on Earth. How he refuses to be denied this last look at the world he once was a part of is inspiring.
After the brutal and often tragic memories that Jacob tells about, the last chapter is a surprise and a delight.