Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Moderator
Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Later Chapters

Please use this thread to discuss the novel from chapter 18 on, as well as your impressions of the whole story.
Contributor
bookclubclassics
Posts: 9
Registered: ‎11-27-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters

Did anyone else think the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the novel? I kept hoping the ending was psychological or symbolic -- not literal. I wrote a brief review of the novel on my blog www.bookclubclassics.com, because I was frustrated that it didn't seem to realize its promise. I'm new to this site so I haven't read all of the earlier posts yet -- have you discussed why this novel seems to be so popular with book clubs?
kgalles
www.bookclubclassics.com
Frequent Contributor
cindersue
Posts: 323
Registered: ‎04-02-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters



bookclubclassics wrote:
Did anyone else think the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the novel? I kept hoping the ending was psychological or symbolic -- not literal. I wrote a brief review of the novel on my blog www.bookclubclassics.com, because I was frustrated that it didn't seem to realize its promise. I'm new to this site so I haven't read all of the earlier posts yet -- have you discussed why this novel seems to be so popular with book clubs?




I just posted a few things to ponder about on how the book ended in the Jacob vs. young and old. :smileywink:
Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters (ending spoiler)


bookclubclassics wrote:
Did anyone else think the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the novel? I kept hoping the ending was psychological or symbolic -- not literal. I wrote a brief review of the novel on my blog www.bookclubclassics.com, because I was frustrated that it didn't seem to realize its promise. I'm new to this site so I haven't read all of the earlier posts yet -- have you discussed why this novel seems to be so popular with book clubs?


I wasn't going to talk on this thread yet, this early in the club, we got all month, but people will know this is a spoiler anyway. Its just I hope we keep the first of the book discussions going before we sum it up. But, I will say this now anyway. :smileywink: I thought the ending was great and did the whole book justice in two ways. I think how she brings the prologue back, (quite frankly I was so into the book as it moved along,l forgot the murder at the first altogether). I like that I had to go back and reread the prologue and realize that who really did the killing was not who I had thought. You have a murder scene, then you work backwards, through a story that bring you back up to the death and what really happens. Its a great formula and hey, it works for all the CSI, Law & Order, and all the other crime shows that are so popular. But again, the story all the way though was so good, that I had forgotten the prologue so this was icing on the cake to go back to that for me.

The other reason I loved the ending for the story and think it did it justice was because by then, you know the young Jacob and you know the old Jacob well and I really didn't know what was going to become of Jacob, where the story was going. If it was just going to go to him finallly dying after telling his story, that would have been a let down for me, but I thought, that may be it, whats left, leaving it with him finally getting to see the circus? Big deal. So the ending which was surprising to me, him getting there and getting to go with them again, was a great ending. The prologue had come full circle and so did Jacob's life! To me that is a symbolic and psychological ending, just told in an easy way where one can take it literally, as just a darn good story, with no bigger meaning, or one with a much richer meaning if you look for it. The title is about myths, the story break down myths. Could it also be breaking down the myth that old people in nursing homes are at the last train stop of their life? Jacob left that stop and literally and symbolically, got back on the train. There is more to him than a carcass to be warehoused and maybe thats something we all need to remember about our elderly.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Frequent Contributor
fordmg
Posts: 546
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters



bookclubclassics wrote:
Did anyone else think the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the novel? I kept hoping the ending was psychological or symbolic -- not literal. I wrote a brief review of the novel on my blog www.bookclubclassics.com, because I was frustrated that it didn't seem to realize its promise. I'm new to this site so I haven't read all of the earlier posts yet -- have you discussed why this novel seems to be so popular with book clubs?




No, I thought the ending was very good. It was a surprise. The old Jacob is waiting all week to get to the circus, and his family forgets him. They he just picks up his walker and says he's going. Takes his life into his own hands while he can. The struggle to the Big Tent is climatic. Then when he talks to the manager and the manager shows him respect for being an old circus hand, he earns his just rewards. In a few pages we get a quick look at Jacobs life between 23 and 90/93. This is good. We don't really want a 1000 page book to get his whole life. What is important is the first summer after he jumps the train and how he fulfills his life at the end. It is an eye opener to understanding aging. I hope a lot of young people read this book and are moved.

MG
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters



bookclubclassics wrote:
Did anyone else think the ending didn't do justice to the rest of the novel?



I thought the ending was great!

One major theme I noticed in the book was not to judge a book by it's cover. In the book, we readers meet people from all walks of life, with many extreme physical conditions, with mental health problems, and with addictions. We meet Jacob, an old man who doesn't recognize himself as an old man. We even meet an elephant who was thought to be stupid until it was discovered that there was a language barrier! The circus workers were skeptical of college boy Jacob, but found out he was a good guy. Jacob was fearful of some of the working men, and even of Walter, but he learned that most of them were fine people also. Marlena and August's lives weren't as glamorous as it first appeared because they struggled with August's mental illness.

In the end, old Jacob is not much different from young Jacob, at least on the inside. He showed his determination to get to the circus. He shared his life story with the modern circus manager. Best of all, he chose to run away with the circus a second time! How great for him! I loved that Jacob was still the same Jacob, despite what some people thought, even himself to some extent, by looking only at the outside of him.
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters

How does Gruen make the ending seem realistic? Is it?

Is she asking us to wake up and look at the possibilities and realities for ourselves and our loved ones?

I have always said a role model for me is a woman who chose to sell her home and move into a group home after her husband died and her children had established lives elsewhere. She was fairly young and lived perhaps 30 years after making that decision. She was still very active in the town where she lived, continued to write for the local paper, kept her car for many years and provided transportation for others who could no longer drive, ....

However, I am no longer so certain I shall ever choose to follow her example.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Wordsmith
Fozzie
Posts: 2,404
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters



Peppermill wrote:
How does Gruen make the ending seem realistic? Is it?





Is Jacob walking over to the circus himself realistic? Yes. He could do more than he was given credit for.

Is Jacob being caught peeking into the tent and meeting the manager realistic? Yes. The manager would have been milling around during the performance.

Is it realistic that the manager would know circus history and be interested in what Jacob had to say? Yes.

Is it realistic that the manager would invite Jacob to travel with the circus? Well, maybe, maybe not. I would say that a manager of a circus would be a different type of personality, one accepting of different types of people. Also, it could be a lonely job, traveling all the time. I can imagine him welcoming the company.

Is it realistic for Jacob to accept the manager's offer. Yes. Absolutely. Why not?
Laura

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters

I certainly loved the ending... Jacob joining the circus again at 90 (or 93). It was an emotionally satisfying ending to a wonderful story.

I'm not sure how realistically satisfying it is.

I just hope that the circus manager didn't get into too much legal trouble for taking a run-away senior citizen with him. I can easily imagine a serious case of inter-state kidnapping being thrown at him.

Also, I can imagine the criminal civil charges his family could make if Jacob were to die while in his care... all these negative scenarios make me break out into a nervous sweat.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters -- POSSIBLE SPOILER


IBIS wrote:
I certainly loved the ending... Jacob joining the circus again at 90 (or 93). It was an emotionally satisfying ending to a wonderful story.

I'm not sure how realistically satisfying it is.

I just hope that the circus manager didn't get into too much legal trouble for taking a run-away senior citizen with him. I can easily imagine a serious case of inter-state kidnapping being thrown at him.

Also, I can imagine the criminal civil charges his family could make if Jacob were to die while in his care... all these negative scenarios make me break out into a nervous sweat.

IBIS

I, too, loved the ending. But I did question the realism.

I had just sort of accepted the ending as the story told it until the discussion (debate?) broke out on whether the entire book was fantasy-realism. Personally, although the question provided insights I would otherwise have overlooked, I didn't and wouldn't treat the main text as such -- although I still haven't quite figured out Gruen's structure and how she has accomplished all those transitions between the young Jacob and the old Jacob -- which were very non-jarring as I read. (Many involved dozing or waking from dreams -- well done to my mind.)

But, when I thought about the ending again, I realized that only a very poorly-run nursing home should have a missing 90-year-old resident for any extended length of time (the police had already started to investigate). So -- was this Gruen's commentary on elder care or a deliberate use of fantasy-realism that may have been more embedded in the entire story than I had first realized or a bit of happy ending writing or ...?
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters -- POSSIBLE SPOILER

Peppermill,
Your comment has given me much food for thought.

Once I questioned the realism of the ending, I had to think about Sara Gruen's structure of the novel, and how smoothly she accomplished all those transitions between the young Jacob and the old Jacob. I agree that the transitions were very smooth, and she did an excellent job steering me in the direction she wanted us to go.

When I have a minute, I plan to reread those transitions sections more carefully.

I will have to revisit the earlier discussions of whether WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is a deliberate use of fantasy-realism embedded in the entire story, or as you say, merely a bit of a happy-ending fantasy?

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters


IBIS wrote:
I certainly loved the ending... Jacob joining the circus again at 90 (or 93). It was an emotionally satisfying ending to a wonderful story.

I'm not sure how realistically satisfying it is.

I just hope that the circus manager didn't get into too much legal trouble for taking a run-away senior citizen with him. I can easily imagine a serious case of inter-state kidnapping being thrown at him.

Also, I can imagine the criminal civil charges his family could make if Jacob were to die while in his care... all these negative scenarios make me break out into a nervous sweat.

IBIS


Ahh, a nervous sweat is good for ya, make ya feel alive lol. Jacob felt them a few times in his old age lol.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Frequent Contributor
ELee
Posts: 418
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Is the ending realistic? -- POSSIBLE SPOILER

As much as I want to believe, with my whole heart and soul, that this ending is feasible...I just can’t. There is no way that this would happen in 2006 as it is written. Now that I have said that, cudos to Sara Gruen for giving Jacob that ending!! He more than deserves it. Call it artistic license; if I have to pay for my warm-and-fuzzies by accepting a less than starkly realistic outcome, then so be it! If I wanted glaring reality I could close my book and walk out of my front door. Or read a newspaper featuring a story about the latest crime. Or watch the news on TV. Whether his return to the circus is the result of an Alzheimer fog, a happy day dream or a writer’s vehicle, it is a return to a family that accepted him, a return home. And isn’t that where we all want to be in the end? Like the circus, Jacob’s return to it is about illusions, dreams and suspension of reality. It’s like carrying water for elephants...
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Is the ending realistic? -- POSSIBLE SPOILER


ELee wrote:
As much as I want to believe, with my whole heart and soul, that this ending is feasible...I just can’t. There is no way that this would happen in 2006 as it is written. Now that I have said that, cudos to Sara Gruen for giving Jacob that ending!! He more than deserves it. Call it artistic license; if I have to pay for my warm-and-fuzzies by accepting a less than starkly realistic outcome, then so be it! If I wanted glaring reality I could close my book and walk out of my front door. Or read a newspaper featuring a story about the latest crime. Or watch the news on TV. Whether his return to the circus is the result of an Alzheimer fog, a happy day dream or a writer’s vehicle, it is a return to a family that accepted him, a return home. And isn’t that where we all want to be in the end? Like the circus, Jacob’s return to it is about illusions, dreams and suspension of reality. It’s like carrying water for elephants...

ELee -- Neat post and thoughts! Thanks for it! P.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Inspired Scribe
IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Is the ending realistic? -- POSSIBLE SPOILER

ELee, that's an insightful perspective on the ending of the book. Thanks for sharing it with us.
IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
0 Kudos

Re: Is the ending realistic? -- POSSIBLE SPOILER

ELee -- your post has been following me around the past few days. This morning I linked it with another discussion from Sunday. We were talking about the bedlam associated with the coming of the holidays and how to avoid the "I'll be glad when they are over" syndrome. Some talked of the need for the practices or disciplines to create quiet spaces in our lives. Someone else spoke of the need to just notice the wonder amidst the crush -- our leader said this was the only way he could see the meaning of the season, his schedule had never permitted otherwise.

And I guess that's where these two conversations came together -- I loved your expression, "if I have to pay for my warm-and-fuzzies by accepting a less than starkly realistic outcome, then so be it!" But I was also reminded that sometimes when we walk out the door and see only stark reality, we need to notice the roses are blooming or the snow has covered an ancient 600-year-old tree or a child is playing hopscotch on one of those light games malls are installing -- I presume to release childish energy while mothers collapse from the bustle on a nearby bench.

Somehow, our imaginations are not just for seeing or solving problems; as you suggest, we can use them for appreciating solutions -- or just for making living tolerable.

So, thanks again for your post!


Peppermill wrote: ELee -- Neat post and thoughts! Thanks for it! P.

ELee wrote:
As much as I want to believe, with my whole heart and soul, that this ending is feasible...I just can’t. There is no way that this would happen in 2006 as it is written. Now that I have said that, cudos to Sara Gruen for giving Jacob that ending!! He more than deserves it. Call it artistic license; if I have to pay for my warm-and-fuzzies by accepting a less than starkly realistic outcome, then so be it! If I wanted glaring reality I could close my book and walk out of my front door. Or read a newspaper featuring a story about the latest crime. Or watch the news on TV. Whether his return to the circus is the result of an Alzheimer fog, a happy day dream or a writer’s vehicle, it is a return to a family that accepted him, a return home. And isn’t that where we all want to be in the end? Like the circus, Jacob’s return to it is about illusions, dreams and suspension of reality. It’s like carrying water for elephants...

"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Frequent Contributor
ELee
Posts: 418
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

making living tolerable

Thank you for your post, Peppermill.

I couldn’t agree with you more-

“...sometimes when we walk out the door and see only stark reality, we need to notice the roses are blooming or the snow has covered an ancient 600-year-old tree or a child is playing hopscotch on one of those light games malls are installing...”

I work in center city Philadelphia and walk a few blocks from my job to the train station. One evening last week, I was approaching the courthouse when I noticed a huge flock of birds in the sky. They were circling and dipping, sometimes breaking off into two or three groups moving apart until the whole number came together again. It reminded me of a giant school of fish, completely changing directions in a flash and moving in unison. It was breathtaking. I stopped in my tracks to watch. Then I looked down at the people moving all around me. Not one other person looked up. They were almost zombie-like, their bodies had just left work and their minds were already at home.

I think we all should remind ourselves to occasionally “stop and smell the roses”.
Frequent Contributor
ELee
Posts: 418
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters

There has been some discussion about the Biblical associations in WFE in terms of story line, etc. I don't know how specific/explicit those references should be, but I think there could be a broader avenue worth discussing.

In another thread, Sappho wrote:

"My point is that Jacob's story begins with his leap of faith.

My thrust at the end discussion will be...does Jacob remain equal to this mighty task of having faith, throughout his life, what changes adjustments did he have to make because of his own choice to remain with the circus (and not jump ship, so to speak, not give up, once he had discovered that indeed he had met his destiny in the person of Marlena?) Will he become as he matures, up to the task (and this is the relationship Sara Gruen gives us which seems to me to truly parallel the biblical Jacob's life-)to remain true to his family values, his first faith, his own belief in God and his form of religion, and to his devout love for one woman?)"

What about this? Did Jacob keep faith with 1) his father, 2) Marlene, 3) Rosie, 4) himself?
Scribe
vivico1
Posts: 3,456
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters/ page 258

You know one of the scenes that just made my heart stop, and ache at the same time was when Rosemary told Jacob she was going away, for good. She made me feel good, because she made him feel good, and still of value. I just felt so bad for him and worried! How great is he though, that as much as it pained him and scared him to think of her gone, he still hoped she had a wonderful life, that she deserved it and was not mad at her or bitter, as anyone can sometimes get when the one they depend on is leaving their life. That was almost more heartbreaking to me than the real cruelties of the book.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
Wordsmith
kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Later Chapters/ page 258



vivico1 wrote:
You know one of the scenes that just made my heart stop, and ache at the same time was when Rosemary told Jacob she was going away, for good. She made me feel good, because she made him feel good, and still of value. I just felt so bad for him and worried! How great is he though, that as much as it pained him and scared him to think of her gone, he still hoped she had a wonderful life, that she deserved it and was not mad at her or bitter, as anyone can sometimes get when the one they depend on is leaving their life. That was almost more heartbreaking to me than the real cruelties of the book.




That was very sad. I thought so also. But Jacob didn't seem selfish, just old. He was lonely and appreciated Rosemary but didn't want to interfere in her having a better life.
Users Online
Currently online: 4 members 275 guests
Please welcome our newest community members: