Water for Elephants: Capsule Review

I read a lot of books about leadership, ministry, and church administration, but every summer I set all those books aside and try to read only fiction. Non-fiction is also permitted as long as it's not directly related to my work. I don't know what led me to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Maybe it's the recent movie version starring that nice young man who played Cedric Diggory. Gruen's novel is an entertaining read, but not a particularly deep one. It's been called a "beach read" and it's certainly that, and one that won't cause your brain cells to leak out your ears.

It's worth picking up purely as an immersive experience. The descriptions of Depression-era circus life were riveting. The story? Less so. There were a few plot points that were set up as surprises that were just not. The writing is sometimes lovely, but she relies on a number of stock phrases, which makes things repetitive.

And the characterization isn't all that deep, with one exception: the story is told in flashback by a man in his 90s, and Gruen did an excellent job capturing what it's like to be old and forgotten, but still full of life and stories.