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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 (14718 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kimfit 09-07-08
    Kimfit 09-07-08

    KC

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    5
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    0
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    Overall
    "Sleeper with Great Ingredients"

    This book deserves more than 5 stars. Has all the ingredients to make it interesting and entertaining: good voices in narration, history, interesting characters, animals, romance, a couple of mean villians, and several unlikely heros. There are some unexpected surprises too.
    All coming from a sleeper of a book and author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula Sarasota, FL, United States 09-04-08
    Paula Sarasota, FL, United States 09-04-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    30
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    7
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    "Such a wonderful Story!"

    One of the best stories I have read (or heard) in a long time. I couldn't wait to listen each day but didn't want it to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. 08-31-08
    S. 08-31-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    108
    ratings
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    293
    88
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    9
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    Overall
    "Worth the read ~"

    Wonderful storytelling ~

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca Cedaredge, CO, USA 08-25-08
    Rebecca Cedaredge, CO, USA 08-25-08 Member Since 2011

    I read like a madwoman all my life but now I have bad eyes. Thank goodness for audio books

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Yes You Were Right!"

    Thank you for recommending this book to me it was delightful. There were some scenes that might have been "adult" If it weren't for that it would be a good story for all ages. The Circus comes to life and so does the hard times that my parent's generation lived through during the depression.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Renato West Linn, OR, USA 08-13-08
    Renato West Linn, OR, USA 08-13-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Romancy but still worth it."

    Great frame story with wonderfull naration for both characters. The contrast settings of circus and nursing home with great details and characters inhabiting both made it a worthwhile listen. At one point the plot got tied up a little too neatly for my taste but, ending was clever and quite satisfying nonetheless. Have to admit I was near the end of the book before I realized it was sort of a romance novel and at that point I was so intriged that it didn't matter.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate Tco 08-10-08
    Kate Tco 08-10-08

    Kathy

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    18
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    Overall
    "Depressing but enthralling"

    Water for Elephants is one of the most depressing story lines I've read in quite some time. Sara Gruen is an excellent writer and it is her turn of words that kept me listening to the very end. On the positive side, the ending is great - it made me want to cheer aloud! If you enjoy excellent writing that allows you to conjure a vivid mental picture of each scene, you won't be disappointed. The character development is fabulous and you'll have friends and enemies among them.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary California, MD, United States 08-09-08
    Mary California, MD, United States 08-09-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    13
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    "Loved it!"

    I just finished this book, and I already miss the characters. Both interesting and entertaining, this book had characters I grew to care deeply about and the best narration I've experienced in any audio book. Brilliant!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Larsen, WI, USA 07-20-08
    Michael Larsen, WI, USA 07-20-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    "From Baraboo"

    Fascinated by the circus trains of Ringling Brothers' Circus in my homestate, this story, my first audiobook, was a wonderful introduction to having stories read to me as I travel. Though I cared more for the memories and struggles of the older character, the story overall was captivating and dear. I learned to my dismay that I neglected to put part 2 on my device though before a trip.... Augh!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DWM Bradenton, FL 07-08-08
    DWM Bradenton, FL 07-08-08 Member Since 2007

    DWMMLM

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Simply wonderful"

    This is about the most enjoyable book I've come across on audible. Funny, serious, dramatic and sweet all at the same time. If you've ever taken care of an elderly family member or are aware of your own mortality, you'll find this an touching, easy listen that you'll want to share with others.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim 07-04-08
    Kim 07-04-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lions and romance and elephants, oh my!"

    I love, love, love this book so much. The dual narrators are superb. The story telling is excellent. I wouldn`t change a thing, even the niggling question at the end: did it really happen or did he make it up...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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