Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.
When you're five, you know your age down to the month.
Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm - you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.
Water for Elephants will be in theaters next Friday (April 22), starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in two of the lead roles, and so I thought I would read the novel first. I'm glad I did, as it was very good.
The novel follows Jacob (Pattinson, in his younger incarnation), who is now 93 years old and living in a nursing home. A circus has come to town and has got the nursing home residents all atwitter, and he is remembering how, when he was twenty-four, he used to work in the circus. The story is told in flashbacks to this time, and it's interesting to see how the past events have helped shaped whom he is in present-day.
Jacob falls in love with Marlena, one of the horse performers, but there's one problem: she's already married, to August, one of the leaders of the circus, who is also a paranoid schizophrenic. She married him when she was 17, to escape her parents in Boston, who wanted to marry her off to the richest man they could find, regardless of his age and looks, and the circus and August, a handsome man, seemed like the ideal choice at the time. Jacob was studying to be a vet at Cornell when he finds out that his parents have died in a car crash, and he jumped on the first train he found, which happened to be that of the Benzini Brothers', a traveling circus act.
The book was fantastic and I am very excited to see its movie adaptation, hopefully next week sometime.
4.5 stars out of 5.