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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

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  • Overall
  • Becky
  • Hixson, TN, USA
  • 01-29-07

Excellent book

We listened to the book on the trip back and forth from work and it was difficult to turn it off when we arrived. And the readers do an excellent job of narration.

This is one of those books that makes you sad that you are finished with it.

I'd like to read other books by this author.

  • Overall

Awesome

This is the best title I have purchased from audible. Normally I listen on long drives or to go to sleep at night, but this book was so good I listened to it through out the day. The action and such towards the end was appropriate for us Rubes. :) I would love to see a sequel, Jacob at 103!!

  • Overall

Loved It

Didn't know if I'd like a book about a circus, but this was a great book. The narrators were great. They made it vivid & real. I couldn't wait to get back out to the car every day to listen to this book. Great ending.

  • Overall

Hated for it to end

This story is told in two voices of one character: Jacob at 25 and Jacob at 90 (or 93). Though I thought the younger narrator's reading was overly melodramatic, I loved the older one, and the story was so great it deserved 5 stars anyway.

This is a fascinating look into the circus business circa 1930...gritty, violent and rambunctious...with a love story woven in and marvelous characters with real depth. It's also a realistic but loving look at life in a nursing home.

I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.