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Water for Elephants | [Sara Gruen]

Water for Elephants

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (13153 )
5 star
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4.3 (5659 )
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Story
4.5 (5592 )
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Derek Union, KY, United States 12-27-06
    Derek Union, KY, United States 12-27-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    61
    22
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Best Read in a Long Time!!"

    Water for Elephants was superbly written and very believably narrated. I completely lost myself in the story as it rippled back and forth over a seventy year time span. Sara Gruen is a new author to keep an eye (or an ear) on. GREAT STORY!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ruth Birmingham, N/A, United Kingdom 12-26-06
    Ruth Birmingham, N/A, United Kingdom 12-26-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "thrilling"

    I thought this was a really interesting book the way it went back in time but kept coming back to the reality of old age and all the condescending ill-treatment and disrespect that goes with it. I was enthralled and had to keep listening until the end. A great writer and I definitely recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heidi Dana Point, CA, USA 12-22-06
    Heidi Dana Point, CA, USA 12-22-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    25
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "Definitely deserves best of the year award"

    This is an amazing book..the best audio book I've listened to since utilizing the Audible service. Well narrated, moving story, compelling characters, and an important reminder to not take our octogenarians and nonogenarians for granted..what amazing stories are out there that we are missing? I'm so glad I listened to this one!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gayle Winnipeg, MB, Canada 12-21-06
    Gayle Winnipeg, MB, Canada 12-21-06
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
    Overall
    "A Keeper"

    This is a wonderful book. It touches the heart with the pain of aging. It shows so clearly how the past is contained within the present. I loved finding out about the depression era circus and the difficulties in just living. But the main character, himself troubled, had a wonderful, albeit difficult life. The love that was his raison d'etre was wonderful to read about. And if the ending was not quite believable it was what we all wanted and would want for ourselves.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dorothy Reno, NV, USA 12-08-06
    Dorothy Reno, NV, USA 12-08-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Very good"

    The credit for this great listen really must go in part to the incredible narrators; beautifully voiced. Full of passion, I felt the emotion in his voice so many times it brought tears to my eyes. This is a well written book and an easy read. However as others have noted - quite difficult to listen to if you have a great love and devotion for animals as I do. I have never gone to circus' for that reason so I am not sure why I chose to read this. But it was quite terrific.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jen Petersburg, KY, United States 12-07-06
    Jen Petersburg, KY, United States 12-07-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    40
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    102
    27
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    3
    0
    Overall
    "10 stars -- Ought to win all the awards"

    Well written, perfectly voiced, creative story line, surprising plot twists, interesting characters, murder, mystery, love story. Everything anyone could be looking for in a book. I just bought 3 for gifts. Kudos to the writer and actors. Incredible presentation and story. The best I've listened to since 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This should be a classic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Jupiter, FL, United States 11-21-06
    Catherine Jupiter, FL, United States 11-21-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    25
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Touching"

    Beautifully concepted audio -- with the young voice and the old voice. I almost couldn't listen to the end because of the sadness I felt -- but the author delighted us with the twists and turns. Loved it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brett Tecumseh, ON, Canada 11-17-06
    Brett Tecumseh, ON, Canada 11-17-06 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    47
    6
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    0
    0
    Overall
    "What a wonderful story"

    This book was one of my most favorite reads ever. Wonderful story that moved right along. The ending was ever so clever.

    I hope somehow the author reads this so I can say, "Thanks".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joyce hendersonville, NC, USA 10-23-06
    Joyce hendersonville, NC, USA 10-23-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    72
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    310
    20
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    2
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    Overall
    "fascinating story beautifully narrated"

    This is one of my favorite listens so far. The two narrators go back and forth in time. Usually when this technique is used, I find myself more interested in one story than the other. Not in this book. As the narrators (who are both excellent) tell their story, I am captivated. What makes this book interesting to me is that it took me to the world of the circus, introducing me to characters that were sad, funny and entirely human....even the animals. I highly recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Key Largo, FL, USA 10-19-06
    Richard Key Largo, FL, USA 10-19-06 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    0
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
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    "One of the best I have heard"

    I am a big fan of audiobooks, and this is one of the best. It is a terrific story, and the readers were fantastic. I would highly recommend it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 991-1000 of 1078 results PREVIOUS199100101108NEXT
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  • Suzannah
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    8/16/11
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    Both strangely exotic and nostalgically familiar, this tale of tenderness found in the harsh reality of circus life and enduring love stolen from cruelty is captivating and entrancing. Told through the eyes and voices of an old timer and his younger self, it flips from past to present and back again with ease and manages to bring two stories together with equal strength and interest. A beautiful story that is beautifully read by the narrators.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Fran
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    8/30/11
    Overall
    "wonderful!"

    I listened to this for a second time when I had exhausted my new supply while away.
    And it was just as enthralling as the first listen.

    Brilliantly written and wonderfully read by the two readers.
    I can't recommend it highly enough - one of the best audibles I've listened to.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "A true love story"

    A true love story written to thrive in the 21st Centry, from the charactors to the plot line its well written and addictive.........

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    11/15/11
    Overall
    "The film does not even get close."

    I could not put this book down.
    I remember exactly where I was when things happened in this book.
    The character of the old man is explored to the fullest extend, this character made the story, and was completely overlooked in the film version.
    Perfect for a holiday, or summer commutes, as I did.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • w
    east horsley, United Kingdom
    11/7/11
    Overall
    "loved it"

    Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Claire
    Yate, United Kingdom
    10/30/11
    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this audiobook when I started listening to it as I found the hopping between the current and past a little hard going and the older person's voice difficult to understand at times. But, I'm glad I perservered with it. The story is very original and draws you in. Worth a listen

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • joanna
    Bingham, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "Wonderfully engaging Big Top Book"

    This book tells the story of a young man thrown into the life of a circus worker after his parents are killed. The wonderful transition between times takes the listening into two very different but equally compelling settings. Brilliant !!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "Great Original Story"

    Great to read an original book for a change. I knew nothing about the american circus trains, and now I do! Takes place during the American Depression. The love story is a bit lame but otherwise a terrific listen.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Derby
    10/22/10
    Overall
    "I Loved it!"

    A really enjoyable listen, on a par with 'The Help'. This has been one of those books I couldn't wait to get back to; it was really well structured and well read, I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Madge
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    7/18/11
    Overall
    "Enjoyed every single second …."

    It left me wanting more…. I did not want the story to end. I laughed and cried. This is a tale simply told, an account that was both funny & sad, on times illustrating the cruelty inherent in some human beings and the goodness of others. The narration was outstanding, it brought the wonderful characters to life and I could really see them through ‘Jacobs’ eyes. It also made me think about the value we place on our elderly population. Can’t wait to watch the film, hope it lives up to the book.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 52 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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