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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

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    11,444
  • 4 Stars
    5,339
  • 3 Stars
    1,783
  • 2 Stars
    482
  • 1 Stars
    342

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    7,880
  • 4 Stars
    2,488
  • 3 Stars
    651
  • 2 Stars
    149
  • 1 Stars
    126

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    6,949
  • 4 Stars
    2,851
  • 3 Stars
    1,094
  • 2 Stars
    296
  • 1 Stars
    184
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Marjory
  • Bloomington, IL, United States
  • 06-08-10

Perfect

I loved this book. The two narrators were perfect and add a great touch to such a wonderful novel.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Sherry
  • WilmingtonUS Minor Outlying Islands
  • 06-08-10

Didn't want this book to end

One of the best parts of listening to a book on audio is when the narration ADDS to the story that would otherwise be lost if it were just simply read from a novel. The narration of the younger man and then the older man by two different narrators is what made this book 5 stars in addition to the story that just captivated me. Made me see circus life in a whole new way.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kathy
  • Dublin, OH, United States
  • 05-31-10

Such a great book!

I was drawn into this book from the minute it started because of the actors. They did such an amazing job! I can still hear the "old" Jacob in my head when I think about the story. The voice of August was wonderful as well. Some books are just better listened to than read. Its like I'm attending a great performance every time I put my headphones on. It was a wonderful story as well!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Easy read

Great car book! After the first five minutes I was hooked!

  • Overall
    out of 5 stars
  • Freyda
  • metairie, LA, United States
  • 05-11-10

fabulous

Absolutely engaging.

  • Overall
    out of 5 stars

charming

A great listen

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Reads like a memoir

Wonderful description of the Depression era circus life in grizzly detail mixed with poignant and very funny sections of life in a nursing home.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Complete Experience

Fully-fleshed characters, firm plot, tears at all the right places, gripping drama, two astounding narrators and a skillful author. Even the little bits of music added were perfect. I mourn the ending of this book but not the ending.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Diana
  • Victorville, CA, USA
  • 04-17-10

Best Audible I have ever listened to

I love this book! The characters come to life as you listen to the tale of the main character, young and old. Beautifully narrated.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Far better than I ever expected it would be

This book brought me to tears on several occasions due to the harshness and the beauty contained within the story itself, but I am so very happy that I held out to the end. Oh, what an ending, thank you! This story will appeal to those of us who know how perceptive and intelligent animals really are and also how wonderful and, at times horrible, humans can be.
Several friends have complained of not being able to get into the printed version of this book but I found the audio version to be fascinating from start to finish. I listen in my car to and from work and while cleaning house since these are the only bits of free time I really have these days - outside of a long haul flight. I was brought up in a home filled with avid readers, from the time I was 5 I always had a book in my hands. Discovering audio books has been a God-send. Now I cannot wait to get to my commute or housekeeping to find out what happens next!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful