Best Read so far of 2011: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I got sucked into this book by reading the preview thing they offer on Amazon where you can read the first few pages. I immediately fell in love with the main character, Jacob Jankowski, who is a feisty patient in a nursing home watching the circus come to town. We learn that when Jacob was in college he lost his parents in a car accident just before sitting his veterinary exams at Cornell. Rather than finishing his degree, he leaves and joins the circus where he's put in charge of the animals. He falls in love with the circus's rag-tag, decrepit assortment of horses, lions, a chimpanzee, and a later in the novel, one lone elephant. Oh, and he falls in love with another man's wife.
Sara Gruen captivated me first through the character, then through the setting, and then through the plot. I thought all elements were very well done. It is a lovely, enchanting, and engaging book. I couldn't put it down. It appeals to the part of us all that wanted (or still wants) to run away with the circus. We find a life there that is brutal, and base, and exhilarating all at the same time.
It's not a squeaky clean book. There are a couple of things (like a description of the circus exotic dancer/prostitute). So don't say I didn't warn you.
The movie is being released this summer. I, for one, always like to read the book before I see the movie. It will feature Reese Witherspoon and that creepy looking guy from the Twilight movies (maybe this will make me like him).
Me, I'm betting the book is better than the movie.