Water for Elephants

by

Author: Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: May 1, 2007

Number of Pages: 335

Geographical Setting: United States

Time Period: Great Depression Era

Plot Summary: Jacob Jankowski lives a carefree life, even during a time of great depression for most.  He is about to graduate from Cornell College, join his father’s veterinary business, and has caught the eye of the most beautiful girl in school (to whom he hopes to lose his virginity).  But a deadly car accident, which claims the life of both his parents, flips Jacob’s life upside down.  After the bank seizes his house, Jacob leaves in search of…anything.  In the middle of the night he jumps a train, not knowing that it belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth!  Young Jacob is thrust into a world filled with adventure, romance, and illusion, one that he can still remember years later when he is ninety-something-years-old.

Subject Headings: Circus — Fiction. Depressions — 1929 — Fiction. Circus performers — Fiction. Parents — Death — Fiction. Elephants — Fiction. Circus animals — Fiction. Triangles (Interpersonal relations) — Fiction.

Appeal: bittersweet, romantic, nostalgic, reflective, engaging, richly detailed, multiple perspectives, character-driven, intricately plotted, literary, suspenseful, atmospheric.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: multiple perspectives, romantic, character-driven.

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

  1. The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy, Stewart O’Nan. A historical account of the Hartford circus fire in 1944; a deadly disaster that killed more than 150 people.  A sobering depiction of circus life, and the risks associated with performing and life on the road.
  2. Tell Me Where it Hurts, Nick Trout.  Heartwarming and moving, the author, a veterinary surgeon tells about his experiences working with pets and their owners.
  3. Children of the Great Depression, Russell Freedman.  Through diaries, letters, and other firsthand accounts, the stories of American children affected by the Great Depression during the 1930s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

  1. Life of Pi, Yann Martel.  Similarly to Guren, Yann also writes intricately plotted books in which reminiscing in old age in a main topic.  In this book, Pi Patel, a zookeeper’s son, escapes a sinking ship on a life boat with a Bengal tiger.
  2. The Sea, John Banville.  Character-driven and reflective, this book introduces Max Morgen who, after the death of his wife, goes to live town of his childhood in search of peace and solitude.
  3. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos.  Two Cuban brothers form a band in New York during the 1950s.  Their talent brings them to new heights with an opportunity to perform on the I Love Lucy Show.

Name: Erin Shinneman

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