February Book Discussion

March 5, 2011

Title: Water for Elephants
Author: Sara Gruen

Book Club Discussion Questions:

1. To what extent do the chapters concerning the elderly Jacob enhance the chapters recounting the young Jacob’s experiences with the Benzini Brothers circus? In what ways do the chapters about the young Jacob contribute to a deeper understanding of the elderly Jacob’s life?*

2. Who did you, upon reading the prologue, think murdered August? What effect did that opening scene of chaos and murder have on your reception of the story that follows?*

3. Some of the scenes were really graphic. Did this add to or distract from your reading experience? How so?

4. Marlena’s image as an abused woman is a common one. How did reading about her experiences connect to you on a personal or universal level? Think about personal or current events in the news.

5. Loyalty, abuse, redemption, and aging – These are all themes prevalent in the book. How did you see these themes play out from young Jacob to elderly Jacob? What other themes did you find as you read?

*The first two questions are quoted from the Book Goup Discussion Questions by Hal Hager of Hal Hager & Associates.

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5 Responses to “February Book Discussion”

  1. rbb Says:

    I really liked this book and hope to see the movie eventually as well. I was most excited to find out who Jacob ended up marrying, as we knew he had several children and was married by his thoughts in “the present.” Did I miss something or was it never explained how he knew no one ever carried water for elephants?

    • hbur Says:

      I wonder if his reaction to the other elderly man was because of pride or loyalty to the circus? Maybe it was because only two circuses had elephants (I think I remember the book saying this anyway). Does anyone else have an opinion about his reaction to the man who claimed he carried water for elephants?

  2. Julie Says:

    I’ll admit it’s been a couple years since I read the book, but I’ll try to carry on in the discussion. I think he was upset with other man because he knew the man was lying to get attention. Basically the man was telling everyone his life had been what Jacob’s life really had been. So it was almost like he was stealing his life in a way. I can’t remember his exact reaction though.

    As far as the first discussion question goes, I loved that we had his perspective from both ages. The older Jacob made me more endeared toward the young Jacob because I felt sad for how lonely he ended up as an elderly man. And the younger Jacob made me understand why the older Jacob felt so trapped after such an exciting life.

    Question 2: I thought Marlena killed August. I remember re-reading it after I read the book and it was clearly written in a way to make it appear that was true. I actually remember re-reading it and saying it didn’t make any sense that it wasn’t her given the way it was written. I guess at the time of reading it, it made me wonder why she did it and what was going to happen to get to that point, but I don’t think it affected me greatly. I figured she had a good reason to do it so I still liked her.

    I’m going to leave it at that for now. I’ll have to think more on the other three questions, but look forward to hearing what others have to say. Hopefully my memory will be sparked more since it’s been so long since I read it and I don’t have a copy here to refer to!

    • hbur Says:

      Julie, that makes me want to re-read the prologue! I remembered the chaos of the scene but not the details. I will definitely have to check that out.

      I agree that having both perspectives (young and old) was amazing. It definitely helps you relate to the character and love him despite his flaws.

      Did anything else stand out to you? The fact that it has been a couple of years since you read it brings a unique perspective. What part of the book stuck with you?


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