Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Water For Elephants

The Story: Water For Elephants

The Author: Sara Gruen

The Dealio: A man in a nursing home- might be 92, might be 93- reflects back on his life: the sole child of parents who died just as he was taking his veterinary science finals at Cornell. They left him nothing but debts-which they incurred to pay for his schooling- a love for animals, and a taste for exotic adventure. To say he ran off and joined the circus would be both oversimplifying and selling his life story short. Along his way to 92...or, okay, maybe 93, Jake experiences more life, more characters, more seat-of-the-pants style living than any 5 people, no! 10, surrounding him at the assisted living facility where he has been deposited to doze through his last few years. Problem is, Jake ain't much of a doze-er.
And then the circus comes to town, and...well, what's a senior delinquent supposed to do when everyone around him slips a cog, beginning to spin tall tales about their past interactions with circuses and finally, dinner table conversation becomes simply unendurable? Well? Read the story and find out before it becomes a movie. Especially if you have ever had to just sit there and listen to someone assume a mantle of (fake) glory for accomplishments you know are absolute...horse feathers.

The Grading Session: 4.979 pengies out of 5. This is a novel with something for everybody: the family hearts strings, the tough choices we make along the way to senior hood. The infinite varieties of loves that populate our world-if we take the time to acknowledge them, rather than walking right by them. The rough and tumble of circus life, and the bonds that are forged between man(and woman) and animals who have crept into their hearts and souls. And, yes, the notion that life can begin-again- at 90-something. But only if you are game for the next big adventure streaking your way. Grab hold of it, hang on tight, and enjoy the ride. These things don't come along every day...nor do books like this one.

Lessons Learned: Several: Animals are people, too. There is a difference between looking back on the past and learning from it, and living in the past. The first is cool, the second is simply lazy and the sure road to regret and wasted opportunity. Finally- and very important, this one: Old is not dead. I expect old age-if I am so blessed- to surprise me and delight me. Know I'll get the first; hope the second comes along for the ride.

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