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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 (14686 )
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4.3 (7041 )
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4.5 (6962 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 11-23-07
    Cathy Northern CA Coast 11-23-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    253
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    832
    54
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    6
    Overall
    "A Seldom-Won Five Stars"

    This superbly crafted tale is a glorious display if readers appropriate sharing a story. Whether the story encouraged a five stars rating from me (a pretty darn unusual rating for me to bestow) or the whether great readers made the grade is interesting to ponder. Probably both, but maybe the readers created the mental images which still reverberate in the back of my mind days after finishing the book. The narrator in the story is an elderly man, reliving the most riveting experience of his life. Perhaps he didn’t realize it while he lived it, but now, mind sharp and body aged, he knows that summer was the exclamation point in his life. The conclusion of the book confirms the narrator’s suspicion of the importance of his experiences. If you’re looking for a good tale to keep your mind engaged and on “the edge of the seat” you’ll be happy with this choice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kourosh Laguna Niguel, CA, United States 11-21-07
    Kourosh Laguna Niguel, CA, United States 11-21-07 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "Engrossing!"

    This work is beautifully written and more importantly, it was mesmerizing to listen to. If you enjoyed "Shadow of the Wind" you will love this book. I highly recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry bakersfield, CA, USA 11-21-07
    Jerry bakersfield, CA, USA 11-21-07 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    29
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    12
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    "something new"

    I loved this book because it was something different, not the same old rehashed idea. If your looking for a great story and a new topic, than this is a great read. Can't wait for more from this author

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam Lubbock, TX, USA 11-02-07
    Pam Lubbock, TX, USA 11-02-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Water for Elephants"

    The audiobook format was perfect for this book since it features Jacob Jankowski when he is in his 20s during the depression and currently when he is in his 90s (is it 90 or 93?)in a nursing home. No matter what his age, he (Gruen) is a great storyteller. Great insight into circus-lore and the depression -- great insight into aging! Wonderful story well done!

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Balcomb Frisco, TX, US 10-17-07
    Terry Balcomb Frisco, TX, US 10-17-07 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    6
    4
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    "Fantastic"

    This is absolutely one of the best books I have listened to. I cringed at some of the descriptions of the animal "incidents", but I persevered through them and I am so glad I did. The story is great and the two narrators are fantastic. Definitely worth listening to.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Spetz San Mateo, CA USA 10-14-07
    J. Spetz San Mateo, CA USA 10-14-07 Member Since 2012

    Jojo

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent narration"

    This is a wonderful book, and also one of the best narrations I've encountered in an audiobook. The two narrators are excellent actors, and I was quickly engaged in both. The humor in the book was brought out extremely well by the narrators, and I laughed a lot while listening. In the last three hours, I could not stop listening - but now that it's over I'm sad to be done with it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie San Diego, CA, USA 10-11-07
    Laurie San Diego, CA, USA 10-11-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    4
    2
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    "Water for Elephants"

    From the beginning to the end of this tale I felt like I was in the skin of character. His love for the animals and his lady gave me insight to the life during the depression and life in the circus. The author and narrator(s) did a great job of keeping it real and making me feel the heartbeat of plot.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sylvia Camarillo, CA, USA 10-11-07
    Sylvia Camarillo, CA, USA 10-11-07
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
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    "Great Book!"

    I got so much out of this book told in two voices; the man at 23 and the same man at 93. It was an astounding story. I thought about it for days after finishing.
    Highly recommended

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanny 10-05-07
    Nanny 10-05-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    165
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    "WOW"

    What a book! Lovely story that is narrated excellently. I couldn't take the plugs out of my ears.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda 09-27-07
    Linda 09-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "Touching and tender"

    This story of a veterinary student who loses everything and joins a circus is told through the eyes of a young man and the old man he becomes. It is a touching and tender story of love and loss, richly drawn with characters you'll remember long after you finish the book. The readers - one young, the other old - are exceptional.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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