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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 (14576 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Glenys EAST MALVERNAustralia 02-17-08
    Glenys EAST MALVERNAustralia 02-17-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    2
    Overall
    "glenniw"

    Starts off a little slow, but soon becomes an interesting look at a man when he is young and when he is 90 (or 93 he's not sure) reminiscing on his youth when he worked for "the greatest show on earth" triggered by an upcoming treat of a circus visit organised by the aged care home he lives in.
    The use of two different people make the age difference believable..I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pearl Anna McElfish 01-31-08 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    52
    1
    Overall
    "Excellent!!!!!!!!"

    This book was wonderful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georganne Glocester, RI, USA 01-28-08
    Georganne Glocester, RI, USA 01-28-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    77
    10
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    "a bit depressing"

    Great narration. Good ending. It took almost all of part one to get me interested though. I don't like hearing about animal cruelty and human cruelty both of which are prevalent in this book. A depressing look at aging as well. It just wasn't in my top 25.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joanne Minnie 01-20-08 Member Since 2013
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    "very good story"

    This was such a very good story; heartwarming, tragic, heroic, entertaining. Life on a circus from behind the scenes in a depression era America. Something happening in every chapter and a great ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kivanix 01-15-08
    kivanix 01-15-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    4
    1
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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
  •  
    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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    15
    4
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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
    1
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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
    3
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    119
    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
  •  
    John 12-20-07
    John 12-20-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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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
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