Water for Elephants
First, a confession:
It took me well over two months to finish listening to this book. The story is very good and the narration was wonderful, for some reason though, I wasn't engaged enough to continue listening to it. Other things seemed to be more important. I think one thing that made the book difficult to finish was the subplot of Jacob as an old man.
The book is really two stories in one. The primary story is that of Jacob Jankowski as a young man who ran away from his life and found himself in the Circus. The backdrop of the Circus is as large of a character as any of the living breathing characters and Sara Gruen is a talented writer for being able to pull this off. I love stories where the setting has such prominence. Jacob must resolve what his life is and who he is as he travels from town to town. His journey with the Circus train chronicle's his journey from a sheltered one life to one that is more worldly. He finds himself on that train.
The sub plot of the story is about Jacob on the verge of losing himself. He is old, 90 or 93, he's not sure which. His not knowing is a very strong theme of the subplot. The subplot of the book was the true point of the book. It made me think of what I want in old age, how I view those who are old, and how I have behaved around those who are old. I felt regret for my behavior and I felt great sadness for what Jacob's life is like in the nursing home. If nothing else, this book grants readers amazing insight into the mind and emotion of the aging. I don't know what Gruen's experience is, but she is gifted. Not only does she have a depth of understanding for the human experience, but she can communicate it in a way that builds bonds and empathy.
Oh, the ending was superb!