One word: wow.
"Water for Elephants" had everything that I love about books inside its pages. It was dynamic, had sympathetic characters, murder, death, life, and countless other controversial subjects. The kicker? It was about the circus!
half.com. (If you're an avid book reader or just need the text for school, go to Half.com. It's a division of eBay that has books for mad cheap, and you just pay for shipping. I've gotten books there from $0.75-$6.00) I started it late last week, and couldn't put it down. It's a book that makes your commute fly by - so much so that you have to jolt yourself out of it so you don't miss your stop.
I feel as though the circus has a relatively unanimous appeal to people - maybe it's the animals, or the idea of running away with the circus. I almost can't literally tell you anything about the plot without ruining the whole story for you. The author, Sara Gruen, does a marvelous job weaving details and jumping from past to present. I love all of the stories of the main elephant "character", (which she later reveals most were based on fact from 1900's circus elephants!) and she had great love-to-hate characters themselves. The ending, which was totally unexpected, left me with such a feel-good feeling as well!
One of the most moving aspects of the book was when she was depicting the life of the main character as an old man in first person. It's a topic that I don't feel many people are comfortable with, especially when it comes to how we treat and respect the elderly. He is alone, living in a nursing home, with five children that come to visit him once a week - and what was fascinating about it was the mental process that he was going through. Recalling the past so lucidly, then forgetting his favorite nurse. I've only encountered this kind of mental depiction in "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova, another great read on the mind of a rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer's patient.
If you have not read this book, PLEASE do so before you go see the movie! I haven't seen it yet, but I enjoyed the book so much that I can only imagine you will too. Then you can go see the movie with that Twilight dude.