Here's a synopsis from Chapters:
This was one of those novels that you just cannot put down, and I haven't read a book like that since The Forgotten Garden this past summer. There was just one little thing that I didn't love (and I say didn't love because it wasn't that I didn't like it, it just wasn't my thing) and that was that the story goes back and forth from the present to the past. Jacob isn't necessarily telling his story, but learning about his life in the circus is interspersed with present day when he is ninety three and in a nursing home. I think the reason I wasn't into this was that it ended the "action" part of the novel. One page I'm learning about how they're trying to train Rosie the elephant, and the next I'm stalled in the nursing home with Jacob waiting for his family to arrive. It's not that it was boring - Gruen wonderfully captured the scared feeling that I'm sure many elderly people feel when they know that their mental and physical capabilities are slipping - it was that I wanted to get back to the circus! Part of that feeling of needing to get back to the action was because, I think, that there was a prologue and I desperately wanted to find out how the circus tragedy was set in motion.Orphaned and penniless at the height of the Depression, Jacob Jankowski escapes everything he knows by jumping on a passing train and inadvertently runs away with the circus. So begins Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen's darkly beautiful tale about the characters who inhabit the less-than-greatest show on earth.Jacob finds a place tending the circus animals, including a seemingly untrainable elephant named Rosie. He also comes to know Marlena, the star of the equestrian act and wife of August, a charismatic but cruel animal trainer. Caught between his love for Marlena and his need to belong in the crazy family of travelling performers, Jacob is freed only by a murderous secret that will bring the big top down.
movie is set to be released on April 22.