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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 (13147 )
5 star
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4.3 (5653 )
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Story
4.5 (5586 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
 (93)
1 star
 (78)
Performance
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  •  
    Valerie ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA 02-05-07
    Valerie ponte Vedra Beach, FL, USA 02-05-07 Member Since 2006
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    Overall
    "Fantastic!"

    This is a great, well written book. The characters come to life, the narration is perfect, and I never wanted it to end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wilma Mareno Valley, CA, USA 02-04-07
    Wilma Mareno Valley, CA, USA 02-04-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    "Great story"

    This is a great story. I cried some, laughed some and even got mad some but in the end, I came away feeling really good. I would recommend this story to everyone...so I am.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Brookings, OR, USA 02-03-07
    Lisa Brookings, OR, USA 02-03-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    20
    2
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    0
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    "Wonderful listening"

    This was a beautifully written love story told in the words of an old man speaking in the present interspersed with a young man telling the story in his past. The story telling is remarkable by the two readers who manage to make the book come alive. Highly recommended listening!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dee Austin, TX, USA 02-01-07
    Dee Austin, TX, USA 02-01-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    146
    8
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    "A Great Listen"

    This is a wonderful, tender, compassionate and heartbreaking account of a life. Although it is very violent at times, the story is compelling; romantic without being saccharine. One of the few books I wish would have gone on much longer. The ending was very satifying. Powerful narrations by both actors...a great listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. McCoy Viginia Beach, VA USA 01-29-07
    C. McCoy Viginia Beach, VA USA 01-29-07 Member Since 2002

    FSX Pilot

    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    61
    16
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    3
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    Overall
    "Superb Novel"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 01-27-07
    Virginia A Pelham, AL, USA 01-27-07 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
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    46
    11
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    2
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    Overall
    "Memorable characters"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Dallas, TX, United States 01-24-07
    William Dallas, TX, United States 01-24-07

    Semi-retired ENT doctor who listens to books while making a 55 minute commute to work two days a week.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    19
    ratings
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    56
    11
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    0
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    "Outstanding"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Assonet, MA, USA 01-23-07
    Glenn Assonet, MA, USA 01-23-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    294
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    198
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    "Great Book"

    Great Book. I liked both readers but the older one was incredible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    christen j todosiev San Pedro, Ca United States 01-20-07
    christen j todosiev San Pedro, Ca United States 01-20-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    5
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    "Loved it!"

    ...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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer United States 01-19-07
    Amazon Customer United States 01-19-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    2
    Overall
    "The Best book I have read in a long time"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 971-980 of 1078 results PREVIOUS1979899108NEXT
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  • 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 52 results PREVIOUS126NEXT

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