Normally, my friend Marcy would throw book titles at me. Books she’s read or currently reading. She’s a ferocious reader – that’s one of the things I love about her – and she would try to make me one too. But this particular time, several years ago, she was reading a book I had contemplated reading and when I asked her about it and told her I was thinking of starting it she told me no. I am paraphrasing here but she basically said, “Don’t read this book, Carrie. You won’t handle it well. You’re too soft-hearted. It will really bother you.” When I asked her why, she started to tell me that it was about a circus and it went into detail about the cruelty that often happens to animals in those types of environments.
Well, you tell me no or suggest strongly – as she did – that I shouldn’t do something and of course I’m going to do it. So I read “Water for Elephants”. Marcy was right. The book broke my heart. There were parts that I would weep uncontrollably after reading, crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. But it wasn’t at the cruelty to animals. Sure, she was right, those parts bothered me, but the heart-breaking parts were about the nursing home residents. Being left behind and neglected by family or having no family at all. Knowing they each had a story to tell but no one would listen. Visualizing the sadness in their eyes, sympathizing with the hurt in their hearts. I am crying right now as I type this and it’s been years since I’ve read the book.
The casting for the main character role in the film adaptation only enhanced the touching story. Hal Holbrook as the old man telling his story to a circus manager about the glory days of the business – pure genius. Every time I see the ending, I’m moved. As he delivers the last line…”I’m not running away. I’m coming home.” Yep, just thinking about it and more tears appear.
Moral of this story: When Marcy tells you not to do something…don’t do it.