Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Title:  Water for Elephants

Author:  Sara Gruen

Paperback:  335 pages

ISBN:  9781565125605

…[Camel] comes to a stop in front of a stock car.  “Joe!  Hey, Joe!”

A head appears in the doorway.

“I got a First of May here.  Fresh from the crate.  Think you can use him?”

The figure steps forward onto the ramp.  He pushes up the brim of a battered hat with a hand missing three of its fingers.  He scrutinizes me, shoots an oyster of dark brown tobacco juice out the side of his mouth, and goes back inside.

Camel pats my arm in a congratulatory fashion.  “You’re in, kid.”

“I am?”

“Yep.  Now go shovel some shit.  I’ll catch up with you later.”

-Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, page 33

Jacob Jankowski was one week and his final exams away from being a vet.  Then tragedy hits, claiming the lives of his parents, and revealing that they’d mortgaged everything to keep their only child enrolled in Cornell University.  The weight and guilt of this bears down on young Jacob, and he just walks off from school… and keeps on walking.  When he finally stops for the night, he decides to jump aboard a passing train, only to find he’s just joined the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. 

Vividly imaginitive and well-researched, Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruenis a compelling, character-driven tale with the feel of magic and wonder we feel as children going to the circus for the first time.  It has a gritty realism to it and exposes the behind-the-scenes working and stratification of classes of the travelling circus.  Bosses, freaks, an exotic menagerie, performers, clowns and dwarfs, working men and roustabouts… in that order.  Everyone has a history, and a pervasive loneliness binds them all together.

I was enrapt by both the writing and the story in Water for Elephants.  Gruen, a female writer, captures the male perspective amazingly well.  The story takes place in two timelines:  Young Jacob at 23 and joining the circus, and the elderly Jacob, who is either 91 or 93 (he can’t remember anymore), in an assisted living facility, dealing with the emotions of being left behind -by his kids and his deceased wife- in a place where there’s baby food to eat, your neighbor poops his pants, and your desires and opinions are discounted and ignored.  I was carried along through the story, and it was over before I even knew it.

I loved Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen and give it 5 out of 5 stars :-)

*************************************************************************************

Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages!  Presenting a video clip of Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth!

:-)

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbank

Title:  Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank:  And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom

Author:  Celia Rivenbark

Hardback:  262 pages

Date Published:  September 2006

PublisherSt. Martin’s Press

ISBN:  9780312339937

When my daughter announced her class was taking a field trip, I involuntarily shrieked “No!” but then had to realize that it was doubtful the kindergarten classes were going to prison or the dookie factory.

Indeed, it was the zoo.  This would be safe and fun, I thought.  Animals frolicking – what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, the baboon, who was frankly obsessed with amorous activities that didn’t require a partner.

“What’s he doing?” a few of the kids asked.

My husband, who was the only man who had come along to chaperone, decided he would deal with this question, and deal with it he did.

“That’s just the traditional baboon way of waving hello,” he said, sounding remarkably poised and knowledgeable.

“Oh,” a little boy in the class said.  “Should we wave back?”

“Oh, God no.”

Next up:  the “desert habitat” where an ancient camel proceeded to amuse the children by leaning down to eat his own shit.  Without even moving his legs, the giraffe savored every bite as if it were the Christmas ham.

Oooh, icky gross! I think I’m gonna hurl!

“It’s just nature,” said one of the kids, trying to comfort my husband.

-Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark, pages 53-54

I first heard about Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark on the April Books Brought Home Library Thing thread (the discussion starts going around message 174).  It created quite a stir, as everyone passed around their “bad parents and monstrous children” horror stories.  With the conversations circulating, as well as it’s hilarious-but-shocking title, I knew I wanted to read this book.  So I clicked on over to BookMooch, entered the title in the search bar, and voila! mooched the only copy available. 

When it arrived in the mail on Saturday, I cracked open the book and just glanced at the title of the first chapter:  There’s Always Tomorrow(land):  “If You Really Loved Me, You’d Buy Me Pal Mickey”.   The chapter’s about Celia planning and taking her family to Disney World.  Before I realized it, I was at the end of the chapter, ripped envelope still in my lap, and bladder barely holding its ground after all the laughter.  The whole book is like that, and you just about have to tear the book from your hands to put it down to make dinner, sleep or even go to the bathroom (okay, I admit it… Celia went there, too).

With the charm of a Southern Belle, and a snarky, sarcastic wit, Miss Celia expresses all that it is to be a mother/wife/career woman/person with the sense God gave a goose in this day and age.  She tells of her experience trying to buy size 7 clothes for her six-year-old, and only finding outfits that’d make a Vegas showgirl feel naked.  Later, she points out that grown women in character-embossed clothes need to grow up, which points out the Topsy-turvy nature of the American culture today:  Children dressing like sexually mature adults and grown-ups dressing like school kids at play.

Each chapter’s title both encompasses its contents, while being surprising and tongue-in-cheek.  A few examples of this are:

  • Yo Yo Yo!  Where Can a Sista Get a Cowgirl Outfit?:  Holidays Make This Mama Wanna Get in Your Grille
  • Weary Mom to Uppity Teens:  At Least I Know Where the Continent of Chile Is
  • Field Trip, Fornification, and a Shit-Eating Giraffe:  Who Says School Can’t Be Fun?
  • Montel’s Smoking Weed:  (But Will He Share With Sylvia the Psychic?)
  • Reality Bites:  Super Skanks Lewinsky and Hilton Are Fun to Watch, but Those 100-Pound Toddlers Rule!
  • The Butcher’s Great, the Baker’s Suffering:  But How Is the Anti-Carb Frenzy Affecting the Candlestick Maker?
  • The Paradoxical Male:  Smart Enough to Find “Me Time,” but Dumb Enough to Get Stuck Buying the Tampons
  • If It Ain’t On eBay, It Ain’t Worth Having:  (Whoa!  Is That Willie Nelson’s Face in Your Grits?)
  • Politicians Serve Up McValues:  (With Extra Cheese on the Side)

Amidst the humor and anecdotes, Rivenbark manages to slip in facts and evidence that support her position, but  you’re too busy laughing and enjoying her company to realize “Hey, there’s serious journalism going on here!”

I enjoyed Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark  immensely, and am going to buy a new copy from Amazon and have it shipped to my mom for Mother’s Day (don’t tell her, or you’ll ruin the surprise!).  All the way through, I could just hear my mom’s voice in Rivenbark, and I know she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.  While the book won’t stay with me as far as remembering specifics, the feeling of fun and laughter will live on, and I’m sure that when I re-read this review a year from now, I’ll remember specifics in the chapters mention, and laugh again.  For the joy it’s given me and will give to my mom and myself in the future, I give Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark 4 iout of 5 Krispy Kreme donuts :-D

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In this video clip, Celia Rivenbark opens up a book signing by reading an anecdote in an email from a friend.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers