Water for Elephants by Sara GruenRomance
This book reminded me of the movie, "Benjamin Button". The format of an old man looking back at his life was reminiscent of the regretful and poignant tone in the movie.
The story is told by Jacob, half about his life now as a 90-year old man, forgotten by his family in a nursing home. The other half is about Jacob's life as a young man in the circus. Jacob runs off to join the circus, literally, when he is just about to graduate from college. Devastated by the loss of his family and fortune, he turns to the only thing he knows and loves--the one connection he has to his veterinarian father--the animals. Jacob gets a job 'watering the elephants', and one grouchy elephant in particular, as he works as the circus animal veterinarian. Jacob also has the really dumb luck of falling for Marlena, a trick horse rider. Marlena just happens to be married to the circus boss, a sadistic man who beats her and the elephants. The whole situation is a powder keg waiting to explode.
Interspersed with this is the story of present-day Jacob and his longing, so tender and sad, that pulls on the heartstrings. It is a sweet, tragic romance.
I loved the parts that explained how the traveling carnivals worked. It was so fascinating knowing that many incidents were based on real, actual events. A heavy book with lots of good ingredients that will leave you satisfied.