Tag Archive | Sara Gruen

What I Read: Water for Elephants

I’ve been TOO BUSY for blogging, which is obnoxious but bound to happen now and again. Enough with lamenting, though. I’m going to tell you about a book I didn’t like.

Title: Water for Elephants

Author: Sara Gruen

Completed: Yep.

Spoiler-free Opinions: Holy cow. So. I went into this book thinking it was going to be a really great circus story, and I like circus stuff, especially Depression-era circus stuff, but this book was a serious let down. We’re being told a story by 90-or-93-year-old Jacob about his youth and his work as a circus vet and the love story that arises because of it. And good lord is it boring. It didn’t start out that way. I was initially intrigued, and the old man bits initially made me sad and not ever want to be old but then it just got repetitive and cliche and boring. I had to force myself through it, but I did finish it.

Along the way I liked a few quotes, most of them from the Jacob-is-an-old-man bits but I’ll share them since there are so very few.

Favorite Quotes and Phrases:

“But in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It’s a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I’m–you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you’re not. You’re thirty-five. And then you’re bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it’s decades before you admit it” (Loc. 199).

“The gravy on the meat loaf has already formed a skin. I poke experimentally with my fork. Its meniscus jiggles, mocking me” (Loc. 258).

“Age is a terrible thief. Just when you’re getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse” (Loc. 343).

“After sixty-one years together, she simply clutched my hand and exhaled” (Loc. 345).

“Nothing happens to me anymore. That’s the reality of getting old, and I guess that’s really the crux of the matter. I’m not ready to be old yet” (Loc. 2038).

“My face. I push the porridge aside and open my vanity mirror. I should know better by now, but somehow I still expect to see myself. Instead, I find an Appalachian apple doll, withered and spotty, with dewlaps and bags and long floppy ears. A few strands of white hair spring absurdly from its spotted skull” (Loc. 2058).

“The sky, the sky–same as it always was” (Loc. 2069).

And honestly, that’s as good as it gets. That’s as good as the imagery will ever be. I wanted so badly to like this book, and maybe that’s part of the problem. My expectations were too high. Honestly, the book wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good, either. There were some nice historical details, some silly plot points that were enjoyable (like an elephant that doesn’t understand English), and the writing wasn’t bad. Just not good.

Stars: 2.5. I…would not recommend it. The bits that are boring overshadow what’s decent.