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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.
Regular Price:$24.46
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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 (13284 )
5 star
 (7406)
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 (1334)
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 (273)
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4.3 (5784 )
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4.5 (5712 )
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2 star
 (96)
1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Karma 03-08-07
    Karma 03-08-07 Member Since 2005
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    1
    Overall
    "A page turner ;-]"

    A compelling story. Touching at times without being too melodramatic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn New Lenox, IL, USA 03-07-07
    Kathryn New Lenox, IL, USA 03-07-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "A Great Story"

    I loved this book. It is about a 93 year old man in a nursing home who had joined the circus when he was a young "almost veterinarian" during the depression. It's not the usual type of book I pick out, but am I ever glad I did. What a story. It moves skillfully back and forth between his life then and now. You'll laugh and cry as you listen to his exploits. The author paints such a believable picture of circus life, that you'll wonder if he was ever in the circus himself. The ending is a real surprise, too. Don't miss this one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Annette Tampa, FL, United States 03-04-07
    Annette Tampa, FL, United States 03-04-07 Member Since 2006
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Behind every elderly person is a story"

    When my friend recommended this book to me, she couldn't say enough about it. How right she was! I work in the healthcare industry and appreciate how Sara Gruen captured the spirit of how the eldest members of our society can tell a story. More importantly, what is left with us after they have shared their histories. I recommended this read to my mother and she read stayed up until 6:00 a.m. to finish it in a day. A must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tracy thatcher, AZ, United States 03-01-07
    tracy thatcher, AZ, United States 03-01-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    335
    62
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    "Great Readers"

    I liked this book. The story was interesting and sentimental. The readers were very believable. I didn't give 5 stars because of the bad language and discriptive sex scenes that I had to fast forward over.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerrell SHAMOKIN DAM, PA, USA 02-28-07
    Jerrell SHAMOKIN DAM, PA, USA 02-28-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "The two Jacobs"

    Gruen does a terrific job of describing the settings. Listening, one easily can picture the scenes in which the acting occurs. I have a very strong "visual" image of the rail car where Jacob, Walter, the horses and Camel lived.

    The 90 or 93 year old Jacob is a marvelous character. Life in a nursing home has never been described as well as this narrative.

    Perhaps this is a sign of good writiing, but I grew to dislike the young Jacob early in the book. I found him to be a self-centered young man. He overreacts, thinks everyone should see things his way and is interested in himself above all others. I disliked him so much I nearly quit listening.

    But I'm glad I listened, anyway. Sometimes, good writing does this to you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    02-28-07
    02-28-07 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Best ever!"

    I am a book listener and this was the best. I cannot decribe how this book took me into the world of this carnival and took me forward to the book ending. The only downside that I can mention is the VERY end was a little weak. I was expecting more. Still a five star and more. Love the charactors and the narrators. Both narrators are exellant. So real. Thanks to the author and I hope she provides many more just as good as this one. I look forward to them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Pomfret Center, CT, USA 02-27-07
    Terry Pomfret Center, CT, USA 02-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
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    51
    13
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    "Delightful"

    I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. I laughed heartily, felt sad, was horrified and cheered. I actually responded aloud when something struck a chord. I'll listen to this book again, and hope to catch things I didn't get the first time around. That is truly a first for me. Well done!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne H NYC 02-27-07
    Suzanne H NYC 02-27-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    192
    21
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Lovely"

    This story is both beautiful and horrible. There were times when I was cringing as I listened due to the brutality of some of the circus workers in the depression era. Some may find it hard to listen to for that reason. but it is a beautifully written and narrated novel. And the ending was just what I needed!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Constance Newton , NJ, USA 02-20-07
    Constance Newton , NJ, USA 02-20-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Terrific book"

    Loved this book! The readers really did a great job in keeping your attention. I would definetely recommend this to all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian Cook Wellington Colorado USA 02-20-07
    Brian Cook Wellington Colorado USA 02-20-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    186
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Great Book"

    Don't let the old mans voice turn you off at first. You will really come to like the old man. A little drug out at times but well worth it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 961-970 of 1083 results PREVIOUS1969798109NEXT
Sort by:
  • Suzannah
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    8/16/11
    Overall
    "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.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Fran
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    8/30/11
    Overall
    "wonderful!"

    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.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "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.........

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    11/15/11
    Overall
    "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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • w
    east horsley, United Kingdom
    11/7/11
    Overall
    "loved it"

    Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Claire
    Yate, United Kingdom
    10/30/11
    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    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

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • joanna
    Bingham, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "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 !!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mrs
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Derby
    10/22/10
    Overall
    "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.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Madge
    Abergavenny, United Kingdom
    7/18/11
    Overall
    "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.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 53 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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