Anyway, I will not spoil the ending, but the book is a realistic "fictional" biography of a traveling circus of the 1920's and 30's that tried to compete with the Ringling Brothers circus. I was fascinated learning about the circus and it's going-ons and just this whole lifestyle that I will never get to experience--I think living life on the road for a little while would be so fun--Gary and I have talked about taking a year-long road trip at some point. It also gave a great glimpse into the Depression-era and the desperation that working people went through. Learning about elephant behavior totally shocked me too--I never knew how smart they were, and I loved Rosie and can't wait to see a real elephant, played by Tai, as Rosie the Elephant. It may make the ending a little too easy and perfect for the main characters, but if you read the acknowledgments, Gruen justifies her ending because it's based on real-life events and stories that she meticulously researched.
I also love books where the main character is the opposite gender of the writer. I think it's fascinating how accurately and tenderly Gruen not only describes the young Jacob, but the old 93-year-old Jacob that tells the entire story via flashback. It reminded me of the Notebook in that way with this sweet, caring man tells his life story to us--really focusing on when his life began which was when he fell in love for the first (and only) time. Gruen is an author on my radar now, and I want to read more of her works to dive into the thoughts and feelings of her other narrators as you can't help but do in Water for Elephants.