So my second book of the year/month was Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants. The book club "Book Beginnings and Bookends" is getting ready to read her next book, Ape House, but I wanted to read this book first since I heard amazing things about it (although her next book is not a sequel, I still wanted to read it).
This book was amazing, and I think I read it in a couple of days because I could not put it down (it helped I traveled all day Fri, so I had plenty of reading time).
The book is a story about a man's (Jacob) time working for a circus. It starts out with the man currently (about 90 years old in a nursing home), and he starts remembering his time working at the circus because the circus is coming to town and is starting to set up across from the nursing home.
You feel so bad for the man because he is still kicking at his old age (or at least trying despite his legs not working in partnership with him), and he gets treated like he is almost dead (or a child a least) at the nursing home. Oh what he would give for a good decent meal with butter and cream and all the things they think are too bad for him. Instead he gets pureed food and jello all day long. There is one nurse who is very kind to him, and sneaks him real fruit!
The book goes back and forth between his time in the present (nursing home), and his time working for the circus. I believe he is probably dreaming during the chapters of his time at the circus. Jacob ends up getting a job at the circus, after jumping board the circus train one night when running away because both of his parents have just died and he has no where to go.
Jacob ends up getting a job as the circus vet (since he had just almost finished college to become a vet -- he ended up missing his final exam because he was too torn up about his parents' death). Because he is a vet, the story really focuses on the animals, which can be amazing but heartbreaking at times when you hear how they are treated.
His time at the circus is amazing, and raw and sometimes brutal at times in how they treat the employees. It's interesting to hear the politics of the circus and how the "performers" vs the "workers" are treated so differently. You totally get swept away when reading this book, and totally feel like you are right there, working for the circus.
I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading Ape House next. I am nervous because the reviews say it is not as good, but I am going to try and keep an open mind. Right now though I am trying to finish Firefly Lane (which I started a few months ago and am halfway through), and will then start Ape House. The book club is picking back up in February, so if you are interested, check out "Book Beginnings and Bookends."