The other day I finished reading my first Jodi Picoult book. I chose Leaving Time without knowing anything about it because it was available at the used book store (if I write used bookstore, doesn’t that mean that the store is secondhand?). It was cheap, and I wanted to see what her writing was like.
It was serendipity that the book turned out to be about elephants because I had just finished reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Maybe some readers would say, “Oh no, not more elephants.” But not this animal lover. I can’t get enough elephants.
By the way, remember my mother-in-law, the artist who painted the murals at The Birdland nightclub? She had a collection of little elephant statues that I inherited. I have them stuck to a shelf with museum putty so I couldn’t arrange them for a photo. This is how I have them jammed in, along with her Birdland and Stork Club memorabilia (sigh).
Anyway, I loved both books . . . a lot. Gruen’s novel is highly acclaimed. A movie was made of the book. As is typical, I haven’t seen the movie. It’s a story about a young man who travels and works with a circus. He takes care of the animals, including a beautiful and highly intelligent elephant that only understands Polish. My Goodreads review is short because I’ve been too short on time lately for writing reviews.
Loved this book. I was so worried about the ending, but the ending turned out to be perfect.
Picoult’s book is a little more complicated. The average Goodreads star rating is 3.91. That’s pretty decent, but it’s comprised of some 1s and 2s. This is what I wrote in my review:
I’ve read some of the Goodreads reviews of this book, and I think I understand why I give this book a 5 and some others give it a 1 or 2. This is a book that appeals to a soft heart for animals. Picoult skillfully teaches me so much about elephants and their brilliant, creative minds and big hearts–and I don’t even feel as if I’m being taught. I feel as if I am living with the elephants. If you are mainly interested in humans and don’t feel a kinship with animals you might think that the book feels as if there are odd gaps at times–explainable by the story being told from multiple points of view. It might even seem a little jerky occasionally because of this. That is all understood by the end of the book (the twist), so it makes sense. Not my absolute favorite story without the elephants, but the elephants are the stars of the show–AND VERY WELL WORTH THE READ. in fact, I wish everyone would read it to learn more about them and to help them survive before it is too late and they are all gone.
One of the really cool aspects of the novel is that it comes with a prequel at the end that gives additional information about the elephants. Another is that one of the elephant sanctuaries in the book is the real one that exists in Tennessee. That is on my bucket list along with Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch. Check it out!
When my son was in high school, he and I picketed the circus together–all over their treatment of the animals, especially the elephants. So imagine my excitement a few months ago at hearing that Ringling Brothers was giving in to the will of the people fighting for the health of the elephants by retiring all their elephants!
One of the most meaningful books I’ve ever read was Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s nonfiction When Elephants Weep. In it he makes an airtight case for the emotional life of elephants (and other animals). In his book I first learned that elephants have been known to create art!!!
Now I’m looking for more elephant books to read. Has anybody read The Elephant Whisperer?
#amwriting: Yup, I’ve been getting my chapbook in shape, so that gives me a feeling of accomplishment. And now my daughter is visiting with her kitty. YIPPEE!!!
56 responses to “Elephants in My Room”
Usually I have no interest in reading book review posts but I love how passionately you write! And I love elephants too.
Oh, thank you, that is such a nice thing to say! Elephants amaze me anew every time I think about them!
Dear Luanne, I love elephants and am beginning a small collection, building on some oyster shell elephants I got in Hawaii years ago, a family of them. Great reading suggestions. I did see Water for Elephants, the movie. OK but the book was far better. I’ll check out the titles you recommend. Reading your post is a terrific way to begin this week. Believe it or not, it’s still winter here. I’m going snowshoeing (in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mts.) this morning!
p.s. I might have to blog about my elephant collection, how I adopted each and every one 🙂 Remember- imitation so they say is the highest form of flattery!
Oh, I love that you have an elephant collection! I would imagine that a book like Water for Elephants could be interesting in movie form, but that it would miss some of the nuances and details of the book.
Hah, I hope you enjoyed the SNOW!!! I can’t imagine!!!
I loved Water for Elephants. I thought it was sublime. The movie was pretty good, but movies just aren’t books.
I have read When Elephants Weep, and enjoyed it too.
I have read five or six Picoult books, but not the one you wrote about. For me, each Picoult book was less and less good. There’s something about reading books with a consistent formula that begins to annoy me and let me down. That being said, each Picoult book I read was good enough. Make sense? If I don’t, read some more of her and get back to me 😉
I have not read The Elephant Whisperer. Never even heard of that one, but it does sound like something you’d enjoy 🙂
So interesting what you say about the Picoult books. I wonder if this book fits her formula?! Formula like Agatha Christie books that are all 210 pages long with the mystery solution on the same page haha?
It does make sense that it was good enough. She sounds like a VERY prolific reader and if somebody likes her style, they will goggle up all her books.
Yes, they are all built on (what comes to be a predictable) plot twist. It’s funny you mention Agatha Christie, because I almost said that! I loved Agatha Christie when I was 11-13, but now they read too predictably. I dunno, I’m weird about stuff like that. And Mary Higgins Clark — Oh! And those cat murder books — do you know the ones? Same kinda thing.
So yes, they’re good, prolific writers, but after a couple, I lose interest.
I know exactly what you mean, except that weirdly if I like them I love the predictability. I guess that’s why some of those mysteries are called cozies heh. I will say I can’t only read stuff like that, but I get in moods where I only want that kind of comfort.
Yes! Exactly. I’m glad you understand me. My mother loves those kinds of books too. Since you like those, have you read any of the Amelia Peabody books? Those were so intriguing, I bet I read halfa dozen!
No, but I think I’ve heard of them. I’ll check into it.
Oh you should. They’re fabulous!
It is NOT necessary to read them in order. Charming books.
I enjoyed all you had to say about elephants and these two books. I have read the Gruen book but not the Picoult book. I’m partial to elephants and like to see videos of their interactions with each other and with humans. Baby elephants are like other mammal babies. They want to sit on your lap and they have some troubles due to their size (smaller than older elephants). Older elephants are very protective of babies, and elephants are very attached to one another. This is appealing, touching, and sometimes poignant. Many animals share traits that are part of the spectrum of human behaviors. Love and devotion stand out.
Oh, the baby elephants sound so wonderful!!! I would love to interact with them! Everything you say about the elephants holds true in all three of these books. Truly remarkable animals.
I haven’t read these books Luanne, though I did see the movie of Water for Elephants. When Elephants Weep is on my to read list though, I strongly believe in the emotional and spiritual life of animals.
Water for Elephants is a very good book and very enjoyable, too. I actually learned a lot more about elephants from the Picoult book. I think it was intended to be an eye-opener about elephants. When Elephants Weep is just amazing.
Luanne, thanks for the recommendation of the Picoult book. I’ll try it. I’ve found some of her books too emotionally manipulative.
P.S. We have a few small elephant figurines from a relative’s trip to Africa many years ago.
I’ll be interested to know what you think after you read it. So you also “inherited” the elephant collection!
Yes, we did.
I adore your love for elephants, Luanne. So sweet. I did read Gruen’s book, but didn’t particularly love it. I am intrigued by “When Elephants Weep.” This sounds like a fascinating read.
Gruen’s book is what I would call a good read, but the other two books teach so much more about elephants and in the case of Masson’s book about animals in general.
I haven’t read Picoult’s book, but I read Water for Elephants and loved it. Some of my favorite parts of that book were actually the scenes told from the main character’s POV when he was an old man. I thought the author captured the frustrations of aging so well. He remains one of my favorite older-than-average protags.
Oh, I LOVED the parts with the old man. That was so cool. It surprised me when I realized how seldom we read books from an elderly perspective.
Yes, I thought the same thing. In fact, I’d love to have read an entire book from his POV.
I’d like to read the sequel . . . maybe, if you know what I mean.
I adore elephants, I have to get When Elephants Weep, I had not heard of it before now. Where have I been, under a rock? The novel sounds fascinating too. What a sweet collection you have there. Oh Luanne, how is Tiger? xoxo
Sherri, you will adore that book if you love elephants. It is so wonderful.
Tiger is fine now. I have a theory about her illness. She was playing with a catnip spray saturated toy and she is not familiar with catnip, for the most part. She dragged it to the doorway of the little cave she lies in while we watch TV and read. I think she was in there too long without ventilation!
Yikes…catnip overdose by the sounds of it! Will remember that. So, so glad your dearling Tiger is all better…such a relief for you <3 And yes, I really must get that elephant book. One day, I will see them in the wild, of that I am determined… xoxo
Oh, that would be wonderful! I want to go, too :)!
I haven’t read either book–or When Elephants Weep–though I’ve heard of them. I’m glad you enjoyed them.
Good luck with your chapbook, and enjoy the visit with daughter and kitty!!
Thanks, Merril! We are keeping VERY busy with daughter here!!!
I enjoyed WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (the book) but have not seen the movie.
It is such a good book! I loved the ending(s), too!!
The only Jodi Picoult book I’ve read is Songs of the Humpback Whale which I can’t remember too clearly anymore except that one of the narrator’s stories is told from the end to the beginning. I do remember loving it.
I haven’t read either book, Luanne, but MUST one day (when I’ve got time to spare). I absolutely love elephants and have a few little wooden elephants scattered around the RUC 🙂
I think elephants are amazing creatures and far more intelligent (emotionally intelligent as well) than we give them credit for. I’ve never liked circuses because of the caged animals. It just seems so, so wrong. I don’t even like zoos and when I do go to some that emphasize education and open areas, I still worry that the captive animals are paying too high a price for our education (and entertainment). Sanctuaries are another thing altogether, of course. All that said … I’ve only read one Jodi Picoult novel, My Sister’s Keeper. I believe a movie was made of that as well, but I haven’t seen it. This is one of the few novels where knowing the ending would have spoiled it for me. I was very drawn into the story, but it wasn’t perfect by any means and I actually didn’t like the ending. Still, it was a fascinating story. Thanks for your reviews of this book by Picoult. Although … gee, my TBR tower is ready to topple!
Good post, Luanne.
Thanks, Anneli! Elephants on the brain lately, but horses today. Too bad I didn’t have my phone or camera with me this morning. A foal and her mama :).
Oh no! To be without the camera at a time like that!
I haven’t read either book, Luanne, but I’ll be adding them to my list. I’ve always loved elephants. When I was little, I begged my mother for a pet baby elephant…we got a poodle instead.
And they told you the poodle was an elephant with a perm, right? hahaha What a cute obsession for a little girl! By the way, my daughter and I just saw something that is the obsession of a lot of little girls this morning. A mama horse and her baby!! We petted them. The mama and I were very simpatico. I could have opened the gate and she would have followed me home, I think. The foal was adorable.
I admit I dropped the Picoult book after a few chapters…I just couldn’t get into it.
My mother did that! She is not an animal person so I could understand it.
I saw your review of the Masson book about the emotional lives of animals and added it to my “To Read” list. The more I observe animals, the more I think they have a somewhat sophisticated inner life–at least greater than what has been admitted by science until now! I think Temple Grandin has written a few books on this subject too.
I’ll have to check those out, too! Thanks, Ian!
I love Jodi Picoult and have read several of her books. Always intriguing.
That’s good to know. She is so popular, but I hear a lot of people dissing her stories . . . .
Your collections are growing, Luanne! Thanks for sharing that you had read your first Picoult book, which gives me the courage to say that I have never read one. I keep hearing about them, so I will keep this one about elephants in mind. As usual, I am amazed at what you are able to accomplish on all levels. 🙂
I’ll read another, too, to get more of an idea of her writing. Then I’ll let you know!
Thanks, I would appreciate the perspective. You know how it goes. Always a large stack of books, staring, waiting.
I know, and I am starting to have trouble finding places to put them.
I love “Water for Elephants.” The movie is also good but not as good as the book (as is usually the case. Or maybe always the case). Haven’t read Picoult’s book yet. I’ll put it on my list. P.S. The elephant, Maggie, at our zoo used to paint. She probably made more off her art than I have on my book, lol. Thankfully Maggie was sent to an elephant sanctuary in Calif. because Alaska is not a good environment for an elephant (the poor thing lived indoors in a small area for a good half of the year). Now she’s roaming around with other elephants. This makes my heart happy. When we used to visit the zoo when my son was young, he wouldn’t go near Maggie’s area. “She looks too sad, Mom,” he used to say. Funny how kids can pick up on such things.
I gave the Picoult to my daughter. I hope she enjoys it. Oh, so happy for Maggie!! Your son is a very sensitive soul. I love that in everyone, but especially in kids!!!
I read about an elephant sanctuary and may have posted about it a long time ago. I have a soft heart for any animal but particularly after reading Black Beauty and seeing “life through the eyes of the animal” I cannot stand how any animal could be beaten. I do realize by eating meat there is a strange disconnect in my mind. When I read that you could bathe and talk to elephants for a vacation while working there, I wished I could go. I think it is either in Africa or India. Very forgetful sometimes, once I post, I consider it “done.” Felicia and I cried during film, “Water for Elephants” and also a few other movies where animals are abused. I got rid of three intricately cut decorations made of elephant tusk. (Ivory still attracts my eyes in antique stores but I don’t purchase things made of it.) I love a big billboard, could not stop on busy, fast highway heading, 71 North. It said, “I am not for trinkets.” The billboard featured a beautiful elephant whose eyes were weary and tear-filled. I have birds in my case of tiny collectibles, so am always enjoying looking at other animals. Those elephants from your famous artist and mother in law are a stunning collection!
Robin, I understand about that posting phenomenon. I have that with all writing. I think it’s a way of unloading the brain. Like my iPhone, I only have so much storage and have to move stuff over to another store facility–icloud or writing a post or story haha. LOVE the billboard!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is so cool!!!!
How CAN anyone beat an animal? It’s so insane.Thank you for your wonderful comments, R. xo