Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen Very disappointed, probably more so than I would have been with any other book that didn't meet my expectations because it started off so strong and well-written, and yet by the end it was quite the opposite.

The first few chapters really sucked me in. Jacob, our narrator, is an old man in a nursing home recalling his past, so the point of view bounces between the two timelines. The story starts with young Jacob, who is close to completing vet school at Cornell when his parents die in a tragic accident. Left with nothing, he ends up walking out of his final exams to hitch a ride on a train out of town only to find out he has joined a traveling circus. Interesting premise! Throw in the Depression and the prohibition and the scene is set. Sounds like it has a lot of potential, right?

But unfortunately, I feel the author squandered that potential. In the end, it all boils down to a very typical romance. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but after all that build up I must say I had expected more. All that excitement I was feeling was completely diminished by the halfway point.

Not to mention there were a lot of other issues I had with the story and the characters. Jacob talks about his love for the circus animals, true enough, but his descriptions of them and the way he acts towards them make me think he's totally indifferent. His love interest Marlena has the personality of a cardboard box, and I don't even want to get into how predictable and unrealistic I think she is. Her husband August is also nothing more than a caricature, and having had experience in the past working in the mental health industry, I was appalled when the author revealed the explanation for his behavior.

Ultimately, what bugged me the most was that this book read like it was written by a naive child who is fond of fairy tale endings. Like I said, I enjoyed the beginning of this novel immensely, and for that alone I may have been able to forgive all its faults and admit I still had a good time. But the final chapter was what ended up doing me in, as in there was no way I could take it seriously after that. I still can't get the bad taste of the ending out of my mouth.