Water for Elephants is a richly embroidered tale told through the memories of 93-year-old Jacob, who recounts his days as a young veterinary student with a second-rate traveling circus during the Depression. Jacob’s memories are interwoven with the present-day reality of the indignities he suffers in his nursing home.
Author Sara Gruen, having done extensive research on circus life, portrays the grandeur and spectacle of an old-time circus, while giving us a look behind the scenes at its class hierarchy, illusion, deceit, and love. Interspersed throughout the novel are black-and-white photographs of real American circus scenes from the first half of the century.
Although Ivy and her family welcome the Halibuts, and their son Alfred becomes her best friend, not all the townspeople are pleased to have circus people as neighbors, especially as other circus families move in.
Saratoga Reads events included a presentation by big top veteran Rob Mermin, founder of the acclaimed Circus Smirkus, and a brown-bag lunch event about the Great Depression. The final event of the season was a reading by Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen, followed by a reception and book signing, at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College. Gruen’s visit was presented as part of SaratogaArtsFest.