Ryan and I spent a great weekend in Leadville, Colorado. The highest town in the USA (10,000 feet above sea level). We woke on Sunday morning to six inches of snow.
Leadville, Colorado, photo of one of the historic blocks on main street
Book Mine, a cute and well stocked independent book store
Main Street, colorful buildings on main street
Silver Dollar Saloon, Doc Holiday killed a man at this saloon that was built in 1879
The Leadville Inn, we stayed at this historic bed & breakfast
Read my review of the Leadville Inn at Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g33520-d256803-r10082959-Leadville_Inn-Leadville_Colorado.html
We also ate at Quincy’s Steaks and Spirits – read my review here: Quincy’s
This book was recommended to me over a year ago by Stephanie Stauder, friend and owner of Anthology Book Co. (www.anthologybookcompany.com). I finally got around to reading it this past weekend. Yes, I did manage to read it in its entirety on Sunday afternoon.
The main character, Jacob Jankowski, is male. I point this out because I always find it interesting when a main character is the opposite gender of the author. Personally, I feel it would be difficult to write a male main character and have never attempted to do it in any of my short stories.
The book is written in a first-person narrative by Jacob who is 91, 92 or 93, he can’t remember. He is confined to a nursing home with brittle bones and children who seem to have forgotten about his existence. His wife has long since passed away. One of the best lines of the book occurs in the first chapter on page 13.
“I used to think I preferred getting old to the alternative, but now I’m not sure. Sometimes the monotony of bingo and sing-alongs and ancient dusty people parked in the hallway in wheelchairs makes me long for death. Particularly when I remember that I’m one of the ancient dusty people, filed away away like some worthless tchotchke.”
Jacob spends his days reminiscing about his life as a young man working as a vet for a traveling train circus in 1931. The chapters flip back and forth between 1931 and his current state. The chapters involving the nursing home are funny as well as heart-wrenching. I think Gruen’s best and most insightful writing occurs in these chapters.
The idea of writing a novel around a traveling train circus is unique and appealing. However, this doesn’t mean Gruen’s book is lacking in cliches; Jacob’s parents die in a tragic accident (this is typical of many main characters throughout fiction) – there is a love triangle – the bad guys are really bad. The story has all the ingredients of main stream fiction and/or a great screen play. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is made into a movie.
Because the setting is based mostly on a 1931 traveling train circus, Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, to be exact, the book is full of odd characters. The main character, however, is actually a bit of a bore. I never figured out why Marlena (his love interests) falls in love with him, other than the fact that he represents a “way out” of her current predicament. Note: I’m not giving anything away here, you know they’re going to fall in love – it’s a novel after all! Jacob is neither funny nor clever. As an old man he was much more endearing, but in the chapters where he is 23, I find him dull.
Many of the supporting characters keep the book entertaining; Kinko, the dwarf clown, Camel the drunk, and Barbara the back tent stripper/prostitute. While reading the book I continually wished to be introduced to some of the other performers mentioned, including the tattooed man, the bearded lady or the fat lady, but we were only introduced to a select few, which was a disappointment.
My favorite characters were the animals, including Bobo the chimp and Rosie the Polish-speaking elephant. Where the human characters seem to lack depth, the animals personalities come alive.
Overall the book is a very easy read and not very long. Despite the pitfalls, it is a fun story that will appeal to many readers, including both men and women, young and old. Gruen conducted diligent research on the history of circuses and the reader gets an insider look at circus life in the 1930’s. The reader will also come away with insight on growing old. Perhaps after reading Water for Elephants, you may look at the old man on the street a little differently. Everyone has a story, and the best stories are usually old and dusty.
I have added a new page. Check it out!
The first review is of The Med, in Boulder.
Yes, it’s my birthday.
I’m turning 28.
Okay, it’s actually 29, but who’s counting?
Today on one of the morning shows something interesting caught my attention. This technology is right around the corner: If your car has an On Star System and for some reason the police want to pull you over, they can simply call On Star, give them your tag information and ask them to stop your car. They are looking for technologies to install this into every car in the country.
Chatting at work today we realized that this would be an ideal way to for the government to control travel. They could simply decide that “today is a no-travel day” and have the police departments turn off our cars. So maybe that’s not in the immediate future, but if we don’t stop these instrusive behaviors when they are seemingly small, they will just get bigger and bigger.
Beware and be aware of what YOUR government (on all levels) is doing.
Also, if some of you have been noticing an increase of police on the streets in Larimer County – it’s no illusion. The City of Loveland alone has budgeted $48,000,000 for the Loveland Police Department for the year 2008. In a town of 60,000 that means $800 per person for police service in 2008. Notice I call it police services, because the only thing they seem to be protecting lately are their own jobs. With a first offense Colorado DUI costing approximately $15,000 and with a person issued a speeding ticket at every corner, can some one please tell me why the police need a $48,000,000 budget?? It’s seems to me their doing a good job collecting their own budget.
Note: As I was pushing “publish” I can hear a siren going by outside. We live near a highway that has become a major speed trap lately (it’s even trapped us – $100 speeding ticket last month). Some poor soul has just added their share to the $48,000,000.
My first blog entry. Some of you may be amazed that it has taken me this long to start a blog. I am a woman of many opinions and what a great place to share them with the world! I cannot disclose the location of the photo above, but I did take the photo. It’s our “secret” camping spot (somewhere in the Rocky Mountain region).
I am going to use this blog to stay in touch with the world (friends and family) and eventually I want to mold it into a review blog. I have been writing book reviews for a local paper for almost a year and through this process have discovered I enjoy reviewing books and want to include other reviews, such as restaurants, movies and more.
I haven’t quite figured out how this blog site works, so bear with me, I do intend to get it all worked out.
Hope you are all having a lovely Monday. It’s a glorious fall day here in Colorado and my birds are busy raiding the bird feeder – I put it up one week ago and I’ve already had to fill it four times! Finches are pigs.