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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

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    11,191
  • 4 Stars
    5,259
  • 3 Stars
    1,765
  • 2 Stars
    476
  • 1 Stars
    337

Performance

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    7,610
  • 4 Stars
    2,440
  • 3 Stars
    640
  • 2 Stars
    147
  • 1 Stars
    121

Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    6,713
  • 4 Stars
    2,780
  • 3 Stars
    1,072
  • 2 Stars
    290
  • 1 Stars
    180
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Karen
  • Grand Rapids, MI, United States
  • 04-17-11

Water for Elephants

I really enjoyed this book and especially the narrators. Having the two voices was a something I really enjoyed about the book!

  • Overall
  • Kelly
  • Cotati, CA, United States
  • 04-17-11

Great Audiobook.

I'm so glad I listened to this book instead of actually reading it. Having multiple narrators is always appreciated, but the additions of dramatic music and great character voices make this one of the best Audio books I've listened to. Highly Recommended!

  • Overall

A maganificent novel

This novel is the best that I have read in a while. It is insightful, poiant, sympathetic, and has beautifully drawn characters. You feel you are "there" being part of the story - a true validation of the writer's gift!! I am desperately looking for more from this writer but cant find any??

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ronald
  • Spokane, WA, United States
  • 04-14-11

Water for Elephants

This is a great Book. The narrators did an awesome job. I loved the voice change from old to young jacob. I recommend this book to all it's a real eye opener on aging.

  • Overall
  • m6347
  • GERMANTOWN, TN, United States
  • 04-13-11

Good Story, Distracting Narration

The story was good and the elder Jacob was wonderful. But the younger Jacob was too over-the-top and distracted from the words by trying too hard to "act" all the parts. He acted even when acting was not required. I found myself hoping the next chapter would be the elder Jacob because he narrated with restraint, not trying so hard. But most of the book was narrated by the young Jacob.

  • Overall

Water For Elephants

What a wonderful book that will touch your mind and your heart if you have ever been to a circus. It is a book that takes you into the lives of people and you feel you know them. It is a great book.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Don't let the high ratings deceive you...

This book was too crude for me. I had a gut feeling it would be, but bought it anyway because of all the other fantastic reviews. I didn't finish it and wanted to advise others who might be wary of the "twisted" "freaks, grifters, and misfits" to choose something else. Too bad, too, because the story really would have been great without the vulgar sexuality and brutish behavior.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • David
  • Edmonton, AB, Canada
  • 04-12-11

Outstanding Story...Outstanding Narrators!

Want to go back in time to a traveling circus?

You can and will with this riveting story -- so well written you'll want to listen to it again.

The story is really REALLY good -- but the narrators are even better...words and characters come to life with their narration. The result? An instant Audible classic.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Peter
  • San Francisco, CA, United States
  • 04-12-11

A great read

The story is very engaging, and the two narrators really bring home the story which is set both in the past and in the present. I really enjoyed the story, both at its most troubling and most touching, and will be looking for more books by this author.

  • Overall

Driveway moments

I sat in my driveway and office parking lot just to get to the end of several of the chapters. I loved the narrators. The ending was a little contrived but I still enjoyed it.