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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 (14947 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Janet Crystal River, FL, USA 06-03-07
    Janet Crystal River, FL, USA 06-03-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "memorable"

    memorable in a sea of sameness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiana Kai Wilkinson 05-31-07 Listener Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    6
    3
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    Overall
    "Wow!"

    I loved this story and I loved the narration. Usually I delete a story off my Ipod after I am done but I've kept this one for months because it was so beautiful. The voices were outstanding. This was the best narration I've heard. The plot line was great. I loved the back and forth between the main character in his 20s vs. the main characer in his 80s. It was so powerful and I was deeply engrossed in the story in both time periods. This is everything that an audio book should be even down to the music that plays in the background.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana FM 05-30-07
    Diana FM 05-30-07 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "delightful!"

    I have listened to Water for Elephants three times since downloading it, and I'm sure I will enjoy it again. It's an absolutely delightful look inside a circus in the 1930s, read brilliantly by two different narrators. It is easy to keep track of whether you are in Jacob's youth or old age because of the young/old narrator switches. The cast of characters includes a dwarf clown with a dog named Queenie as his best friend, an old crippled drunk, and of course Rosie the elephant. I ended up caring so much about Jacob, I was sad when the story was over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alix 05-29-07
    Alix 05-29-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Loved it!!"

    I was a little skeptical about this one because of the circus theme, I thought it might be cheesy. However, this was a very well written book and extremely enjoyable to listen to. The characters are full of color and I could actually picture them in my mind. I would very much recommend this to anyone whether they like circuses or not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Spooner Loveland, OH 05-24-07
    Andy Spooner Loveland, OH 05-24-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "Enjoyable love story, but..."

    Nice love story. Someone implied it had similarities to "The Time Traveler's Wife," which is why I downloaded it, but I couldn't find the similarity. Not exactly a page-turner for me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne Newmarket, ON, Canada 05-23-07
    Suzanne Newmarket, ON, Canada 05-23-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Awesome"

    This book will make you laugh , and cry...it is such a different setting that most books - but it is a great story. And after it you will probably want a pet Elephant for yourself :-)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Lansing, MI, USA 05-21-07
    Julie Lansing, MI, USA 05-21-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    8
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    "Interesting"

    Gives great insight into what circuses are really like. The characters are distinct and are memorable. The author paints a picture of the various scenes and you feel like you're there with them. Great listen!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane M. White Weston, MA USA 05-15-07
    Jane M. White Weston, MA USA 05-15-07 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "I loved it"

    Understanding the frustration of living in a 93 year old body is not something I've read about. I also knew nothing about the circus during the 1930s depression. This work of fiction gives great insights into both, in a fabulously entertaining way. The narration was a major enhancement to the story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 05-11-07
    Benjamin Kailua, HI, United States 05-11-07 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    241
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    "Great read for just about anyone"

    This is not a book I would normally pick but it was fantastic. Just about any reader will enjoy this book. Great story, narration that brings it right to life, and fun from start to end!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07
    Robert West Monroe, LA, USA 05-09-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    2
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    Overall
    "Life is short"

    Really enjoyed the two narrators of different ages. Made all the difference and showed a dimension sometimes missed in a cold reading.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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