Friday, January 7, 2011

Exceptionally Good Book-- Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants -- Sara Gruen

It happens once every few years- the planets align just so and the result is that I err.  I know, I know, you're shocked.  But, rest assured, it really is a rare occurrence.  Some examples of my errors are as follows: "John Edwards seems like a really great family guy."  Or, "Facebook is stupid- only 16 year old high school girls use it."  Or, my personal favorite "this dog is so sweet.  I'm sure it won't disrupt our lives too much to give Copper a little sister..."  What makes this particular case rare is that it was a double whammy-- on one single day I made TWO mistakes:  I decided that I really HAD to have a bologna sandwich, even though I had a really bad stomach flu, and I thought that I'd not be at all interested in a book about the circus.  On the bright side, at least when I'm wrong, I'm really wrong!!  

Water For Elephants  is Jacob's story as he tells it from his nursing home seventy years later.  It's a love story, but not a traditional one.  Jacob loves Marlena, yes, but also Rosie, Bobo, Camel, Queenie, Silver Star, and so many others.  Suddenly thrust into the role of veterinarian of a second-rate circus during the Depression, Jacob finds himself learning about life in a very unusual manner.  Like many of us, Jacob finished college not at all certain of who he was or what he wanted.  Unlike most of us, though, he stowed away on a train car and changed the track of his future (pun fully intended.)  During his summer with the Benzini Brothers circus, Jacob discovers the depth of his character, learns what makes a person strong, and, most importantly, what makes someone good.  Perhaps the best lesson Jacob learns, though, is that words matter but not nearly as much as actions.  My mother always said that pretty is as pretty does-- Jacob learns about true beauty.

Jacob's 90 (or 93, he doesn't know for sure) year-old self yearns for the days of his youth.  Yet, he doesn't seek to return to legs that can sprint or to delicious steak dinners, though he misses both.  He wants to relive the joy that comes from surrounding himself with love.  As I sit here with Copper to my right, Ramona to my left and Andrew on the couch across from me, I can understand his desire.  There is nothing more special than the love of family, regardless of what species make up that family.  I may not ever eat bologna again, but about this, I am certain I'm not wrong.

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