COLUMBIA — Sara Gruen, author of the book “Water for Elephants,” signed autographs Tuesday afternoon at the Columbia Public Library through the One Read program.
About 50 readers gathered to have Gruen sign copies of the book, event booklets or pieces of paper that some said they planned to insert into books later.
As the left-handed author remembered to “start at the bottom and work (her) way up” and avoid smudging her signature and the accompanying sketch of an elephant, readers told stories about the circus.
“I had an opportunity to ride an elephant in the circus when I was little,” Rachel Mitchell said. “Reading about Rosie (the elephant character in the book) just took me back.”
Candy Lindsey said that three of her great-uncles owned the Seils-Sterling Circus and that two of her nieces are taking circus lessons now.
“I just have a history of circus in my family,” she said. “After reading the book, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to chronicle this.’”
But experience with the circus is not the only way people connected with the book. Several readers spoke about themes of aging, loveand finding a place in the world. The author nodded along with each interpretation and added her own thoughts.
When asked to describe the one overarching theme of her novel, Gruen paused.
“That would change depending on what day you ask me,” she said. “I really like the idea of not being genre-d, not being pigeon-holed.”
Readers seem to be enjoying the thematic variety in her work.
“My son recommended this to me,” Deanna Pickering said. “And I said, ‘I’ve already read it.’ I just love this book.”
One Read is a communitywide reading program to encourage adults to read and participate in a dialogue about the selected book. The program is in its sixth year for the Daniel Boone Regional Library.
Gruen will speak about her book and the ways in which it has affected her life at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Launer Auditorium at Columbia College.