Have you ever read something that has touched your heart? Something that has made you think about what you’re doing with your life and where is it going? I have.
The novel, Water for Elephants written by Sara Gruen, made me realize that everything is meant be, that we have to find out place in this world, and sometimes we have to go through some wild adventures to get there. This story is not a typical love story, there is so much more to it than that. Not everyone’s story is the same. We all have our life experiences that make us who we are.
SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read the book and wish to read this book, please do not read this paragraph, you might want to skip to the next. Again just a warning: spoiler alert!!! Jacob Jankowski had to grow up fast when he learned that his parents suddenly died, leaving him with nothing, nowhere to live, and nowhere to go. So where was this poor young Polish man supposed to go with no job in the Depression? Leave Veterinary School finals to join a circus of course! Jacob courageously, spontaneously, hops a board of a train coming his way. To his surprise he hopped onto the train of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. In order for Jacob to stay on the train he lies that he is a veterinarian. He is assigned to take care of the animals. During his stay with the circus, he falls in love with a young woman named Marlena. She is the sweet, beautiful, equestrian star that steals Jacob’s heart. The only problem is that she is married to August, the animal trainer. August is no man you want to mess with either. He is ruthless, manipulative and will stop at nothing to get what he wants and keep what is his, including Marlena. August has Marlena under his spell but Jacob’s arrival begins to unravel her love-struck world. She realizes August is not that man she really wants and she begins to fall in love with Jacob. August takes all his anger out on the animals and Marlena. Jacob and Marlena plan to run away together with Rosie, the elephant, who is one of the animals under August’s control. Rosie becomes Jacob’s main reason for staying on the train. She brings Jacob hope when he thinks he’s lost it all. Rosie is smarter than anyone thinks she is, and she proves that at the end of the book, leaving everyone asking the same question. Of course, I’m not going to tell you the whole story that would be silly of me. Go get the book and read it for yourself to find out what happens at the end.
I’ve never heard of this book until about two years ago, during my senior year of High School, my AP English teacher assigned it to my class. At first I was like oh great, here’s another boring book that I’m not going to read and I’m going to end up looking it up on Spark Notes. But, my teacher was excited about this book, more than usual I would say; which caught my interest. She told us a basic summary and for once I thought I might enjoy reading this book. Now, don’t get me wrong, not all of them were a snooze-fest, I did enjoy other books I read in that class as well, but Water for Elephants was by far my favorite of the year. I loved reading that book, beginning to end. It was torture reading it for school because I couldn’t read ahead for the class, so I patiently waited for my teacher to assign the next few chapters.
Once I was finished the book I was sad, yet I was thrilled about how good the book truly was.. I love that this book is portrayed as a love story at first glance. But it is so much more than that. There are many underlying themes that really bring into the light what Gruen wanted her readers to gain from this book.
This book touches on animal cruelty, spousal abuse, the understanding of good and evil, doing the right thing, and countless others that tie the book together. I think that’s why this book kept my interest because there are a lot of factors about life to consider. It’s a thought provoking book that makes you think about what is really important in life and to follow your heart. And even sometimes to make crazy decisions, like join a circus. Now, this is not, and I repeat not, one of those instances to say “YOLO”. No ladies and gentlemen, sorry to burst your bubble, but this book is not all about the YOLO status. Water for Elephants is much deeper than that. This story tells the tale of a man who finds his life at a circus, he finds where he belongs. The story of Jacob Jankowski was touching and amusing. His adventures were inspiring. His journey was about his self-discovery. He found the love of his life, a passion for animals and he learned to fight for what he wanted.
I can take away from Jacob to never give up on something that I want; whether it’s love, a job, or to live the life I want by my own rules. The novel has influenced how I look at my own life and how I read books. I read for the adventures and for the realistic story of a true character. This type of novel has reminded me that everyone goes through their own problems in life. We all face obstacles and how we deal with those obstacles determine where are going and who we will be in this world.