I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. She gave one of the pep talks for NaNoWriMo, saying that the first draft of the book was writing for NaNo - though there's no mention in the interview in the book. Whatever - I really did enjoy the book.
The idea of Circus was intriguing but I particularly liked the way, this world floated through the landscape of the Great Depression. The story of the old man bracketed the action. I had read reviews about the book, saying that it was a pot-boiler and too catastrophic - but I didn't find this an overwhelming problem. There were realistic and sympathetic characters against a background that wanted to believe that there was something more than hype behind the glittering lights and the promise of an elephant.
The one thing I found a little strange was the triangle of characters reminded me too much of Sophie's Choice, with the charismatic alpha male, the young innocent male and the wounded young woman.