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
"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)
Undoubtedly the most heart warming story I have read in years. I admittedly am a romantic and love stories that end "and they all lived happily ever after." This novel comes close to that ending and so wins my favor automatically; however, the story itself was so moving - especially Jacob at 90 (or is it 93)and his observations of nursing home living. I relate to it so very much as I spend every day with my mother who is in a nursing home. Jacob tells it like it is and his reactions are certainly typical in every way - I grew to love him deeply as his story unfolds. I empathized with him and his circumstances every step of the way. I also loved Jacob at 23 and the unfolding story of his true love with all the surprises that it holds. His story too brings the romantic out in me even more. DO NOT PASS this book by -- read it and you will enjoy it, I guarantee.
This was one of the most memorable novels I have read in the last few years.
The narrator, Jacob, is “ninety or ninety-three” and lives in a nursing home. The arrival of the circus next store leads him to reflect on his experiences working on a circus during the depression. I have never been to the circus but Gruen makes the days when the circus was still a big event come to life.
Several things make this story stand out. First, instead of the usual format where the elderly person only appears to introduce a flashback, in Water For Elephants, the story alternates between Jacob’s present life in the nursing home and his life as a young man in the circus. In the audio version, there are separate narrators for the younger Jacob and the older Jacob. This makes it easy to tell where you are and adds to the realism.
At first I found myself wanting to get out of the nursing home and back to the circus, but by the end I cared as much about what was going to happen to the elderly Jacob and I did about learning the secret of his past. Even so, I thought the writing about the circus was especially powerful. Gruen’s ability to evoke the world of the depression-era circus reminded me of Ann Rice’s ability to make me feel that I am in New Orleans. She puts you in the menagerie with the animals, and Rosie, the elephant, is a character you won’t soon forget.
Finally, there is a surprise at the end, which leaves you feeling happier than you expected.
This is a relatively short book that I think anyone who loves animals will enjoy.
Semi-retired ENT doctor who listens to books while making a 55 minute commute to work two days a week.
As a senior citizen, this book was great. The author really knows nursing home life. This is a wonderful story, well witten and very well spoken. I liked the surprise ending.
...couldn't wait to take a walk with the ipod or keep driving to get to hear what happened next... Get ready to take a trip back in time.
I really enjoyed the readers as well. They became the characters for me, both at 20 years old and at 90... or 93.
I loved this book. I had it downloaded for 3 or 4 months before I got around to it. The reviews were good but I was not compelled to listen to it. I am so glad I started this book. The story and the narrators brought this book to life. I cried, cringed in horror and outrage, laughed out loud and grew attached to these characters. I even caught myself to some of the facial movements that were described in the book. I enjoyed this book so much that I got it for my sister and recommend it to everyone I know with Audible. I check very ofter for other books by the author.
This was one of the most enjoyable books I have ever listened to. It was about life, death, aging,relationships, animals, people and it had a great sense of humor as well. I was so sad when it ended- going to be hard to find another book as good as this one.....but I'll keep trying!
This was probably the best Audio book I have heard in over 10 years of traveling and listening to Audies. I have an 88 year old father, or 90, and it made me really think about the daily things he must be thinking as he thinks back on his full life and large family. An incredibly simple story but with characters you care about from the first chapter on. Incredible.
This audiobook was a joy to listen to. It was definitely well written and seemed to portray the Depression-era realistically. The plot was complex and, at no point, boring. The book has all the elements of a great story - love, hate, revenge, animals, and a dwarf...you will get to experience a full range of emotions with the interesting characters. I especially enjoyed the first person narrative way the story was told and the narrators were both awesome!
Good book, good narration.
I hate the music at what was probably the beginning and end of each CD on the original recording. It's goofy and distracting to have to listen to music over the narration.
"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.
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.
"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.........
"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.
Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it
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
"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 !!
"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.
"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.
"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.
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