I recently finished Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants and I couldn't have loved it more. I've recommended it to all of my family and friends, and now I am going to blab about it here so everyone will know the splendor of this book. It follows the story of an elderly man who lives in a nursing home as he recounts the story of one season that he spent in the circus during the Great Depression as a young man. The vibrant and sensual, and sometimes brutal, world of the circus contrasts bitingly with the dull and slow life that the main character, Jacob, lives in the nursing home. The story really takes risks with the plot, leading the reader into a peep tent, and showing them some of the more horrifying effects of prohibition. There are characters that the reader will love, like Marlena, a horse-whispering beauty, and characters that they will loathe, like the mood-switching August and the greedy Uncle Al. At the center of it all is a mute and mischievous heroine named Rosie, who appears in the form of an African Elephant. Gruen brings her characters alive because she is not afraid to put them into painful situations, or to stretch them to their limits; really, she humanizes them at every turn of the page. There will be chapters will you cringe at the unfairness of it all, and where you feel you may burst with hatred or astonishment at the actions of some characters, but this is the main reason the book is so gripping. And in the end, you'll feel good. I promise.