Coming Home to the Circus (Water For Elephants – A Book Review)

Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen
Published: 2006

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Water For Elephants

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So long ago. So long. But still it haunts me.

After losing his parents in a car accident, Jacob Jankowski discovers that his parents weren’t as well off as they said. A student at Cornell, studying veterinarian sciences, Jacob is on the verge of graduating when he takes to the railroad tracks, lost and alone.

One night, a whistle sounds in the distance and a train, home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and Jacob jumps aboard, joining the circus as the vet. It’s the early part of the Great Depression and this circus quickly becomes his salvation and hell. When he met Marlena, the performer in the pink sequin number with the horses and married to August, animal tamer, it all becomes worth it. And then there’s Rosie, the beautiful, gray elephant that changed the show. The bond between this trio becomes one of hope, love, and survival.


Jacob Jankowski was bold and honest and filled with such wonder and love. Caring not only for animals, but people as well. Now, ninety, or maybe ninety-three, he recalls his times under the big top for the first time in a very long time.


I can’t believe it took me so long to finally read this book. So many people recommended it to me, and I am really glad I got to read this. It was a really good book. The circus isn’t usually my thing—clowns ya’ll—but this, tied alongside the Great Depression, was moving. There was a sparkle of joy mixed into such sadness and desperation. Gruen truly encompassed the era and showed what it was to not watch the circus as part of the audience, but be a part of it.

The storytelling was magical. Running away with the circus is what we only talk about or dream about, and here, it happened for Jacob. Filled with hard work and danger, it was filled with adventure and vibrant life. As much as it opened my eyes, leaving in me enchanted, this book was also romantic and emotional.

I really couldn’t get enough of this book. The characters thrived vibrantly. If I had to pick a favorite It would be Rosie. The elephant was one so funny and delightful and my heart went out to her. She was funny and sweet, and really loved lemonade.

In comparison to the 2011 film based on the novel, there many bits that I wish would’ve been featured in the movie. Half of this novel takes place in a nursing home. Hell, the whole thing does because Jacob is telling the story. His nurse, Rosemary wasn’t even involved which was a darn shame since she treated him mighty well. However, Uncle Al being omitted was totally okay with me. He was creeeeepy. These were only the major things that topped my list. Loved Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson for the leading characters. Phenomenal.

water for elephants


A wonderful book and a great summer read.



“I don’t talk much about those days. Never did. I don’t know why—I worked on circuses for nearly seven years, and if that isn’t fodder for conversation, I don’t know what is.” (Jacob, p. 6)

“Sometimes when you get older—and I’m not talking about you, I’m talking generally, because everyone ages differently—things you think on and wish on start to seem real.” (Rosemary to Jacob, p. 227)


More to come soon…



P.S. Song today? Good to You by Marianas Trench.


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One thought on “Coming Home to the Circus (Water For Elephants – A Book Review)

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  1. I loved this book, too! I actually read Sarah Gruen’s second book first for a book club and then went back and read Water for Elephants because the other was so good. I’ve been hesitant to watch the movie, though, because Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson are not at all what I pictured the characters to be like…

    Liked by 1 person

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