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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

4.4 (15170 )
5 star
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4.4 (7492 )
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Story
4.5 (7412 )
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Pam florence, SC, USA 09-23-08
    Pam florence, SC, USA 09-23-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Great"

    A wonderful listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynda Rains Bonchack 09-20-08

    Relaine

    HELPFUL VOTES
    89
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    162
    11
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    1
    Overall
    "water for elephants"

    One of the most enjoyable books I ever heard.
    Two voices, two points of view, and fast paced.
    A totally different experience from reading the book, which gave me a new appreciation of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peggy Cordova, TN, USA 09-12-08
    Peggy Cordova, TN, USA 09-12-08 Member Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "This was a really great listen"

    I found this audio to be very entertaining. A bit slow getting started by it certainly kept me entertained while doing more mundane tasks.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimfit 09-07-08
    Kimfit 09-07-08

    KC

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    20
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    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
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    564
    7
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    "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
    REVIEWS
    298
    88
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    0
    Overall
    "Worth the read ~"

    Wonderful storytelling ~

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca 08-25-08
    Rebecca 08-25-08

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

    HELPFUL VOTES
    37
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    79
    46
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "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
    58
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    19
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
    "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
    REVIEWS
    18
    1
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    0
    1
    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
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    229
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "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
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.

    10 of 10 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.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    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.........

    7 of 7 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.

    6 of 6 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

    6 of 6 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

    6 of 6 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 !!

    6 of 6 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.

    6 of 6 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.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Annette Morris
    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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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