Water For Elephants By Sara Gruen

“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen is a novel set during the Great Depression in the United States. The story follows the life of a young man named Jacob Jankowski, who is studying to become a veterinarian at Cornell University.

When Jacob’s parents are killed in a car accident, he discovers that his father had amassed a large amount of debt and the bank is taking possession of their home. Jacob’s world is turned upside down, and he drops out of school, leaving his dreams behind.

Jacob is forced to wander aimlessly until he comes across a train carrying the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on Earth, a traveling circus. Jacob impulsively hops on board and is hired as the circus’s veterinarian.

Jacob soon falls in love with Marlena, the star performer, who is married to August, the circus’s animal trainer. August is a cruel and abusive man who has a violent temper, and Marlena is trapped in a loveless marriage.

As Jacob navigates life in the circus, he develops a special bond with an elephant named Rosie, who is thought to be untrainable. With Jacob’s help, Rosie becomes the star attraction of the circus.

The story is told through a dual narrative, with Jacob as an old man in a nursing home and as a young man in the circus. Throughout the novel, the reader sees the contrast between the young, vibrant Jacob and the old, lonely Jacob.

As the circus travels across the country, Jacob becomes more and more involved in the lives of Marlena and August. He must navigate his feelings for Marlena, while also trying to keep the peace with August.

In the end, Jacob’s loyalty to Marlena and Rosie is tested, and he must make difficult decisions about his future. The novel explores themes of love, loyalty, betrayal, and the mistreatment of animals in circuses.

“Water for Elephants” was a commercial success and has been translated into 43 languages. It was later adapted into a film in 2011, starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz.

Lessons from Water for Elephants

Here are some potential lessons that can be drawn from “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen:

  1. Love knows no boundaries: Despite the challenges and obstacles that Jacob and Marlena face, they are drawn to each other and fall in love. Their love shows that true connections can form regardless of social status, age, or circumstances.
  2. Animal welfare is important: The novel raises awareness about the mistreatment of animals in circuses during the early 20th century. It highlights the need to treat animals with respect and compassion, and to ensure their well-being is a top priority.
  3. Loyalty is a valuable trait: Jacob’s loyalty to Marlena and Rosie is a key aspect of the novel. Even though it means risking his own safety and security, Jacob remains committed to helping them and protecting them from harm.
  4. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns: Jacob’s journey in the circus is not what he had planned for his life, but he learns to adapt and find new purpose in unexpected places. The novel shows that sometimes, the best things in life come from unexpected places and opportunities.
  5. Aging can be a difficult process: The novel explores the theme of aging through the character of Jacob, who is reflecting on his past as an old man in a nursing home. It highlights the struggles of growing older, including the loss of loved ones, loneliness, and physical decline.

Overall, “Water for Elephants” is a story about the importance of compassion, love, loyalty, and the power of unexpected connections.

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