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Hardcover Water for Elephants Book

ISBN: 1565124995

ISBN13: 9781565124998

Water for Elephants

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Over 10,000,000 copies in print worldwide #1 New York Times Bestseller A Los Angeles Times Bestseller A Wall Street Journal Bestseller A Newsday Favorite Book of 2006 A USA Today Bestseller A Major Motion Picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz Jacob Janowski's luck had run out'e*orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show...

Customer Reviews

13 ratings


A let down. I was expecting so much from this book and it just didn't live up to that expectation.

Emotional Rollercoaster from Start to Finish

I can’t believe it took me this long to read this title. It takes you from happy to sad, desperate to hopeful, and angry to satisfied with every turn of the page. It’s a simple story that captured me from the first page. Highly recommend this read.

Fascinating true story

I shy away from romance novels finding them mostly too trivial. But this story is something special, not only is it true but it was the author's first book. Incredible! I'm so jealous, I certainly have a gift for reading but I'm completely inept at writing . I met the author at a fair in Oregon and I guess she lives near me. I saw her handsome husband there too. MJ Fletcher

Water for Elephants

I liked the transitions from past and present. Every new chapter brought on a new experience and I found myself procrastinating homework just to read it. Loved the characters and the ending was a little abrupt but also really fitting. Overall, great read and definitely recommend!

Ordered Like New, it wasn't

Ordered like new, definitely had a lot of wear...

A dazzling spectacle

"Water for Elephants" is one of those classic books everyone talks about. And with good reason. It's a rousing adventure with carnival delights and a surprise twist that lead up to a feel-good ending. Beautiful and touching.

Why is there such a strange book overview. It tells nothing about the book. Do you have the wrong book?

I absolutely loved this book and felt like I was there every step of the way. This was one of those books where you become so absorbed into it that you can see everything playing out perfectly vivid in your head.

A GREAT read

When my mom gave me this book I thought would hate it since I hate circuses in general. But I had nothing else to read while on vacation so I read it. After 5 pages, I was hooked and could not put it down. It is a classic page-turner with the most original plot I've ever read. It's one of those books you'll be sad when it's over because you fall in love with the characters. I know this will be a movie soon so make sure you read the book first!


Water for Elephants is told by and about Jacob Jankowski, a cranky but likable 90 year old (or perhaps 93) man who resides in an assisted living center. The story maintains its momentum by alternating between the past and the present as Jacob recalls the circumstances under which he found himself traveling with the Benzini Brothers Circus. Through Jacob, the author Sara Gruen, presents us with a fascinating history of the American circus as well as a painful look at the time known as "The Great Depression". Gruens storytelling technique is enhanced by the period circus photos (circa 1920-30) that appear at the beginning of each chapter. The eccentricities of the characters as well as the alarming treatment of both animals and performers propels the story and mezmerizes the reader. The complicated interpersonal relationships of the circus "family" is deftly interwoven with that of the rest home "family". I was truly seduced by this book. Reading it was an unexpected and astonishing adventure that continued to resonate long after I had read the last page and closed the book.

One of the best books I've read this year...

Although it is only April, I predict that Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen will be one of the best books I read this year. Gruen has proven to be an amazing storyteller. Water for Elephants is told in the first person but from two different perspectives--Jacob Jankowski at 23 years of age and again, at 93 years old. Gruen seamlessly weaves the chapters between past and present. Jacob at 23 is finishing up his last semester at Cornell Veterinary School when a family tragedy causes him to flee. He finds himself on a train for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth in 1931. Needing a vet, the circus hires young Jacob to tend to their menagerie. Jacob at 93 resides in a nursing home where he laments the curses of old age, the passing of his wife, and the waning affection of his family. The arrival of a visiting circus triggers a flashback to his youthful circus experiences. 1931 is a hard time for almost all Americans, and the circus workers are as hard hit as any. Most are one step away from being homeless and jobless. Conditions on the circus train are harsh for most. Many workers go weeks without being paid, and they tend to disappear during the night when times are tough (management has them thrown off the train). The menagerie is often times treated better than the workers. But the circus does provide three meals a day and a place to sleep--even it if might mean a horse blanket on a train bed floor. Jacob discovers very quickly that he's just about the only advocate the animals have and he must battle a ruthless owner (Uncle Al) and a crazy animal trainer (August). Any circus has more than their fair share of interesting characters, and Gruen's circus is no exception. In addition to Uncle Al and August, there is Walter (the midget clown), Marlena (an equestrian with whom Jacob falls in love), and Grady and Camel (workers). One of the most sympathetic characters in Water for Elephants is Rosie, the elephant--who shares more "human" characteristics and feelings than some of the circus bosses. The tender-hearted Jacob quickly grows to manhood as he is forced to protect both animals and coworkers from abuse and worse. Water for Elephants is a delightful, moving book, and the ending was a very pleasant surprise. Also, if you want a special treat, listen to it on audiobook. The two readers, David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones, did a wonderful job of bringing both Jacobs (young and old) to life.

A book that will leave any reader wanting more

Jacob Jankowski is pushing 90 and wallowing in a nursing home, abandoned by his family and surrounded by aged octogenarians who irk him with their senility. He has few pleasures in life --- an astute and friendly nurse named Rosemary and his vibrant memories. As Jacob lies in his bed, drifting in and out of sleep, lucidness and dreams, the compelling story of his experiences as a young man unfolds in Sara Gruen's mesmerizing new novel, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. The year is 1932. Jacob is 23 and just shy of getting his degree in veterinary medicine from Cornell when he learns that his parents have been killed in a horrific accident. Emotionally and monetarily stranded, unmoored and with nothing to lose, Jacob jumps a train and finds himself traveling with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Starting at the bottom rung of the strict caste system within the ranks of the Circus employees, Jacob's veterinary knowledge quickly garners him a place near the top of the hierarchy, among the company of the hot-headed ringmaster August and his beautiful wife Marlena --- the all-purpose female star of the show. He also finds himself among the company of cantankerous midgets, gloriously endowed "men's entertainers" and a menagerie of exotic and soulful creatures. In her previous novels, Gruen has proven herself a master at depicting the uncanny and often astounding bond between humans and animals, and the scenes with Jacob and the creatures under his care are nuanced and lovely. Gruen paints each creature's persona with as much care and detail as she does for the humans, subtly illuminating the similarities and undermining the concept of human superiority. In the Depression-era setting of Jacob's tale, the survival of the humans is inextricably intertwined with that of the animals; they all live in a kind of chaotically symbiotic state where a star horse's sickness could spell bankruptcy and the chance for redemption lies in the acquisition of an elephant named Rosie. Exceptionally drawn as well is the development of a tentative bond between Jacob and Marlena. Jacob immediately is attracted to the lovely Marlena. She takes longer to reciprocate his affection, and throughout their cautious and hesitant budding romance the presence of Marlena's husband looms large and threatening. Gruen's pacing is excellent and the tension among Marlena, Jacob and August simmers and crackles before coming to a brutal and electrifying climax. The transitions back and forth in time, and the mundane events that unfold as Jacob moans and gripes through his days at the nursing home, could have been, in the hands of a less skilled writer, jarring and distracting, breaking the flow and drawing the reader out of the story. But while the crazed, dramatic and often spectacularly bizarre world of the Benzini Brothers is fascinating, as the novel progresses the reader becomes equally drawn into Jacob's present world. His disdain for his aged body and regret over the confusi

"In seventy years, I've never told a blessed soul."

Stripped of everything after his parents' untimely death, twenty-three-year old Jacob Jankowski has failed to sit for his veterinary exams at Cornell, left with no home and no future, the country struggling through the Great Depression, bartering in goods instead of money. Hopping a train that by chance belongs to The Flying Squadron of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, Jacob hires on to care for the menagerie, his training an entre into this bizarre world; but as the novel begins, Jacob is an old man, restricted to an assisted living home, his memories sparked by a nearby visiting circus and a creeping helplessness that assaults his ageing body: "Age is a terrible thief. Just when you think you're getting the hang of it, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back." The story is related in the somber tones of the Depression, the hardscrabble and often unscrupulous business of a traveling circus and the heartless despots who make their fortunes on the backs of men who must do anything to survive. Star performer Marlena, an equestrian, is sensitive to the needs of her horses, although her mercurial husband, August, the trainer, is obsessively jealous and given to unspeakable cruelties. Uncle Al, Benzini Brothers circus owner-by-default, is a ruthless businessman who cares little for man or beast, engaged in a quest for fame to rival the great Ringling Brothers. With his advanced training in veterinary medicine, Jacob does his best to protect the animals from their harsh existence, especially Rosie, an elephant purchased to replace Marlena's lead horse. Jacob and Rosie share an affinity for one another, the huge creature at times almost human. Because of his growing affection for Marlena, Jacob suffers August's increasing affronts, caught in a cycle of inevitable violence, certain of a reckoning. In chapters that move flawlessly back and forth in time, from the rowdy circus atmosphere to the antiseptic corridors of the assisted living home, the world is viewed through Jacob's perspective, as he rages helplessly against the decrepitude of old age and the secrets of the past. In prose both poignant and infinitely tender, Jacob dwells in both worlds, revealing the wounds of the past and the sorrows of the present. In one touching scene, Jacob awaits a family member to escort him to the circus, yearning for the Big Top with every fiber of his being, craving the familiar sights and smells of that pivotal summer of `31, the roustabouts, the kinkers, the rubes, the animals. The denouement is devastating, as inescapable as the indifferent world that turns a blind eye to the vagrants of the 30's. Yet Jacob's spirit retains the essence of his kind nature and a respect for others, a man who will not be broken by circumstances. All is redeemed in a coup d'grace that will leave the reader strangely satisfied and richer for having met this raggedy tribe of miscreants and lost souls. Luan Gaines/ 2006.

Water for Elephants Mentions in Our Blog

Water for Elephants in Losing Yourself in Book Land
Losing Yourself in Book Land
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 20, 2023

Thriftbooks enlisted OnePoll to survey 2,000 U.S. adults who read regularly to learn about the science (and magic) behind getting lost in a book. And what we learned turned into a captivating read.  

Water for Elephants in 23 Years of the Alex Awards
23 Years of the Alex Awards
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 21, 2020

Have you heard of the Alex Awards? Established in 1998, they celebrate books written for adults that have special appeal for younger readers, aged twelve to eighteen. These intergenerational, or crossover, books can serve as wonderful connection points between parents and teens.

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