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Water for Elephants Audiobook

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

4.4 (16563 )
5 star
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4.4 (8763 )
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4.5 (8685 )
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Performance
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  •  
    kivanix 01-15-08
    kivanix 01-15-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent comment on elderly life"

    This book gives an excellent insight in to elderly life. A well researched book with wonderfull anecdotal information about the circus life of old, a sad comment on how we treat the elderly and the meaning of life for an elderly person. An extrememly good read.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gayle Falls Church, VA, USA 01-11-08
    Gayle Falls Church, VA, USA 01-11-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Fabulous"

    Absolutely love the book, and the recording. The characters ring true, and the vicarious experience of that long-ago time and escapist, cut-throat, romantic "business" is rich.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Alexandria, VA, USA 01-04-08
    Kathleen Alexandria, VA, USA 01-04-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    1
    Overall
    "My New Favorite Book"

    This unusual story is compelling and well written. What would give someone an idea to write about these subjects? I "googled" Sara Gruen to find out. Every once in awhile a book will come out that I never want to end and recommend enthusiastically. This is one of those books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Visalia, CA, United States 01-02-08
    Sue Visalia, CA, United States 01-02-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Wonderful!"

    Both the young and the old main character are wonderfully portrayed in this book with excellent readers. I was left at the end wishing for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martha Southern NH 12-27-07
    Martha Southern NH 12-27-07 Member Since 2010

    Martha

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WONDERFUL"

    This is one of the BEST books that I have ever listened to. It was a real plus having the voices of the older and younger main character being so real! I wish that other works of this author were available.....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Howlett 12-26-07
    J. Howlett 12-26-07 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Highly overrated"

    After all of the glowing recommendations I had heard for this book, I expected something more than this naive fairy tale for adults. I enjoyed the picture that the book painted of life in the circus but the mostly one-dimensional characters and the many over-obvious plot devices made me distrust the one element of this disappointing book that I did enjoy. Read "Modoc" instead if you are interested in elephants and the circus

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wallinghill 12-20-07
    Wallinghill 12-20-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    12
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    "Great book!"

    Outstanding book, but an absolutely stellar performance by John Randolph Jones as the main character at age 90 (or 93). Mr. Jones was simply brilliant. Not to take away from the book, which is a terrific read (listen).

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Howell, MI, USA 12-19-07
    Patricia Howell, MI, USA 12-19-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    62
    1
    Overall
    "Wonderful Awakening"

    First, the negative: The music played is distracting and hard to hear over. It needs to be edited out or made to be less loud!

    The good... Mr. Jones is an amazing narrator and PERFECT for this role. He gave it life. While I like the whole book, I enjoyed the portions of Jacob at 90, or 93, the best. It woke me up. Maybe it wasn't meant to do that, but it did. I saw how my grandparents must be thinking right now. They are close to 90 and alone. Not married to each other anymore, and alone. I need to go see them more often and ask them about them. Not talk about the weather and chit chat. I want to know what they are thinking. I want to pay attention.

    The story was really great and I loved it once I got into it. I am glad it was recommended to me. I had no idea what it was about when I bought it as I feel if a friend recommends a book, I should read it. So I did! I was surprised, not shocked, but surprised about the ending of Jacob at 23 and what happened... Read it!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve Delray Beach, FL, United States 12-18-07
    Steve Delray Beach, FL, United States 12-18-07 Member Since 2013

    A well written book is a gem.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Flat characters, excellent narration."

    I considered this book just 'OK', sorry. I saw lots of people liked it so I gave it a try. I thought the premise was good - a man looses everything and then finds himself in circus in the 30's. But there wasn't any depth to the story or the characters. With the exception of the old gentleman, all the characters very flat and predictable. Narration was excellent.
    If you like characterizations on the level of Dudly Doright and Snidely Whiplash then this book is for you

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Burbank, CA, USA 12-16-07
    Kathleen Burbank, CA, USA 12-16-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great storytelling"

    This book was highly recommended to me by a friend, and I am equally enthusiastic. The narrators are excellent, and add greatly to the enjoyment of the book. I was sorry to reach the end of the book, but the conclusion was satisfying - if implausible. Suspend your disbelief and let yourself be carried away by the magic of the circus.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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