The One Where Wench Anne Made Wench Amanda Read a Book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Months ago, Wench Angela came up with this great idea for posts. The idea was for each of us to recommend a book to another Wench, and that person would review it. Angela’s post explaining all the rules is here.

Truly, I loved the idea. On the other hand, the thought of someone else choosing a book for me made me nervous. I can’t even join a local book club with people I know and like because I absolutely cannot make myself read a book that I am not interested in. It’s the worst kind of torture for me. Still, I love a challenge. Wench Anne made her recommendation, and I put on my big girl panties and read Water for Elephants.

Why Water for Elephants for Amanda?

This was recommended to me by my dad, of all people. I read the synopsis, seeing romance and history and love story, and was initially put off. Books that are Romancey in feeling don’t generally appeal to me. But it was my DAD telling me how great it was. I’m not sure he even knows there is a romance section in book stores. So, I figured I’d give it a shot. And I loved it. It was a powerful story, an intriguing setting, with great characters — all the hallmarks of a great book. My sister, my husband, and several other family members read it and loved it as well. So when I heard Amanda had not yet read this, I knew that this had to be the book I made her read.

Keep reading after the jump for my mildly spoilery thoughts on Water for Elephants.

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant...An elephant’s faithful—one hundred percent!  ~ Theodor Seuss Geisel, Horton Hatches the Egg, 1940

What I Enjoyed

First, you have to love a book that begins with a Dr. Seuss quote! Not only that, this quote is quite clever, as it foreshadows future events. My favorite character, hands down, was Rosie, the elephant. There were times that I thought Rosie was the only character with any sense!

I also loved the back and forth between the present and the past. Jacob’s current experiences in the nursing home and dealing with old age were both poignant and the funniest scenes in the books. My favorite one was where Jacob and McGuinty got into an argument because McGuinty said that he used to carry water for the elephants in the circus. I laughed so hard at this quote! I loved how it showed Jacob’s spirit, his strength of character, and how, at age 90 or 93, he’s still got all his marbles.
“I used to carry water for elephants,” says McGuinty. I drop my fork and look up. He is positively dripping with self-satisfaction, just waiting for the girls to fawn over him.
“You did not,” I say. There is a beat of silence.
“I beg your pardon?” he says.
“You did not carry water for the elephants.”
“Yes, I most certainly did.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Are you calling me a liar?” he says slowly.
“If you say you carried water for elephants, I am.”...
How dare you!” McGuinty braces knobby hands on the edge of the table. Stringy tendons appear in his forearms.
“Listen pal,” I say. “For decades I’ve heard old coots like you talk about carrying water for elephants and I’m telling you now, it never happened.”
“Old coot? Old coot?” McGuinty pushes himself upright, sending his wheelchair flying backward. He points a gnarled finger at me and then drops as though felled by dynamite. He vanishes beneath the edge of the table, his eyes perplexed, his mouth still open.

Tricky, Tricky

The prologue fake-out was very clever. Yes, Ms. Gruen got me. I spent the entire book waiting for that moment and then got a surprise. I can see, in retrospect, that the scenario alluded to in the prologue would not have fit with the characters as I came to know them.

Another thing that tricked me, though it might just be me — I didn’t think that Marlena was his lifelong wife and the mother of his children. Possibly, it was the prologue fake-out that made me think he lost touch with Marlena.

Another thing that I was happy with was the ending. I don't want to spoil it, but the ending was the best scenario I could have hoped for. Matter of fact, the thought that the book would end this way never occurred to me!

It’s Not You, It’s Me

All these things I enjoyed about the book, but there were also things that left me feeling meh. Over and over, I felt like the storyline was on the precipice of something exciting, just to cut away from the moment. This might have been intended to suit the gentler sensibilities of mainstream audiences. Another thought is that it was because the details of that moment weren’t important to the author. It’s very likely that I was looking for more “action” when that’s not what was important to further the storyline. It’s just that I like action!

Water for Elephants is just not my usual style. I like books with action, violence, sexy time, and a dominant alpha male or female. This book was SO different from my usual read. That being said, I know it’s good for me, good for all us really, to step outside of our comfort zone once in awhile. I know plenty of people who would love this book, and now I’m glad that I’ve read it and can recommend it to them.

Rosie says be sure to read "her" book.

My rating

Have you read Water for Elephants or seen the movie? What did you think about either of them? Share your thoughts below!


  1. Great review Amanda. Well you have intrigued me enough to think it might be worth reading. Thank you.

  2. I really loved this book, more so than the movie (naturally, when does that not happen?). But I love books that give me insight into the past. And I probably liked that more than I liked the story about the two main characters.

    One thing's for sure, I'll never think about the term "rotgut" whiskey the same again.


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