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Water for Elephants

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

Time is a circus, always packing up and moving away. ~Ben Hecht

Have you ever had that feeling where something is on the tip of your tongue? You can almost taste the word that you’re thinking, but it never comes. I experience the same sensation when pondering the circus. I can’t remember if had ever been to one as a child, but the nostalgia and fun-loving magic wrapped up inside the aura beneath the big top, even if only from an imaginary standpoint, is palpable.

Pulled along from one word, scene, and performance to another throughout this brilliantly constructed novel, there was always a sense of motion, doing, and happening. In a fitting way, that’s exactly how the characters experienced their lives as well, continually on the move via the clickety-clack of a circus train.

From a technical standpoint, I learned an overwhelmingly valuable lesson through the consumption of this novel. After finishing the edits on my own fifth book, I was reminded by a writing colleague how my story was shared from a first-person narrative point of view. Contrasting that with the way this novel by Ms. Gruen was told, I have come to appreciate the value of “show don’t tell” and how doing so creates a much more compelling experience for the reader. How appropriate that such a revelation appears in a book about the greatest “show” on Earth.

Loyalty plays a big part in this story, on so many different levels. Between people of different ages and social classes, but also between humans and animals. The way we showcase that devotion to those who surround us says so much about us. And the choices we make often require us to weigh our own well-being against the consequences of our actions on those who share the same space with us.

The dual timeline nature of this story and the manner in which the prologue is shared with the reader sets a myriad of thoughts in motion, leaving us to ponder the direction and eventual outcome presented at the conclusion of the story.

In the end, I’m left with an endearing reverie of a time in the past, where things were simpler yet more complicated. But no matter the time we live in, or the age of a person, that ever-present desire to flow with the current of life and make the best of our circumstances rings true throughout the theme shared in this story.

And while what we discover at the end of it all might be something either monumental or insignificant, it’s only when taking the time to look back when we learn that the journey itself and the memories made along the way has been the true reward.

Dave’s Rating: ☕️☕️☕️☕️


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