What We’re Reading: Water for Elephants!

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and Motherlode mama of 3

If you like to read the book BEFORE the blockbuster movie hits theaters, you’ve still got enough time to read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I just finished it last weekend, and it totally lived up to its status as a New York Times No. 1 Bestseller. It was one of those books that I didn’t want to end, yet I read it quickly because I was dying to know how things would wrap up.

This story is about a young man named Jacob. But in the novel, it’s Jacob as an old man (90 or 93-years-old…. he keeps forgetting which one) who tells the story. His flashbacks on his life tell what happened to him during his last semester of college, when his parents were suddenly killed in a car accident. Consumed by grief and completely broke, he hops aboard a train and soon discovers it’s not just any train. It’s the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. But it’s certainly not all fun and games working for a circus, and Jacob’s life is at risk after he falls in love with Marlena, one of the stars of the show.

This coming-of-age story includes all the things that make for a great novel — drama, mystery, close-calls, comedy, accidents, surprises and true love. The author makes you feel like you’re on-board that circus train, too, yet she keeps the pace moving along so you don’t get bogged down in too many minor details. My only advice is to skip reading the Prologue. I read it and it didn’t ruin any surprises for me, but I think I would have enjoyed the novel even more without those early hints about the ending. But whether you read the prologue or not, I’m betting you’ll still love the book. On the Amazon.com website, more than 2,500 people have submitted reviews on the book and the average rating is 4 1/2 stars out of 5!

If you love a good “can’t put it down” kind of book, this is it. With the movie coming out on April 22nd, you’ve got just enough time to read the book before you see it at the theater. The movie stars Robert Pattinson as Jacob and Reese Witherspoon as Marlena. Click here to see a movie preview.


  1. I read this last summer and have thought about it many times since. There was a PBS special on modern day circus life that I made my husband watch. He might be concerned about my obsession with the circus.
    It’s a GREAT book.

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