Written By: Sara Gruen

Narrated By: John Randolph Jones, David LeDoux

Date: May 2006

Duration: 11 hours 33 minutes


Jacob Janowski's luck had run out-orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.


  • Sara D.

    Narrator was really good, have read it before but loved it being narrated, gave it a bit extra.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Dana P

    Loved it. I have read the book myself, seen the movie, and now enjoyed the audio version.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Kylie Sullivan

    An amazing book. I had no troubles trying to get into it. There were great narrators.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Susan R.

    This is such a great story, loved it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    This is a fun story, with a small glimpse into the history of traveling circuses in America in the early 1900's. I especially enjoyed chapters with old Jacob, the fiesty old gentleman reflecting on his younger years. It was sad to learn of his lonely years at the nursing home.

  • Krystle R.

    Love the story and the narration!

  • Kristen N.

    I had this book on my shelf at home for a long time and always have meant to read. Finally just listened and I'm so glad I did. The story is fabulous, the narration is so well done, you feel like you're watching the scenes unfold in front of you. Highly suggest this book if you're looking for a good story, great characterization, and a piece of culture so many of us know nothing about.

  • Pam B.

    Loved it .

  • Rachel O

    Have loved this book for a long time and loved listening to it again. Beautiful story.

  • Tiffany Sessions

    For me the best part of this "read" was the narrator(s). For me the story lacked character development - I just wasn't a big fan, and I always felt like something was missing with every character - seemed shallow, never really understood what made each character tick. I would have stopped listening but every one said it was so good - so I kept listening waiting for it to get better, for me personally it never did.

  • Cindy W.

    Great story ~ Wonderful characters! Could have read on and on past the ending!


    I didn't love this book. It seemed very patched together - each chapter ragged with very rough edges forced to fit into the surrounding story. Almost as if the author thought "Hmmm.... better put a fight scene here." or "60 pages in already, time for sex scene". I was not impressed with either the overall story or the flat one dimensional charecters. The story was actually a little depressing.

  • Anonymous

    Loved this story. Very cute how it jumps between Jacob (the main character) as a young and old man. I enjoyed the historical bits about the old time circus trains and all the crazy characters who worked on them. Highly recommend.

  • Anonymous

    loved the book; found the "young Jacob" narrator's voice a bit annoying, but still would highly recommend.

  • Joni

    My favorite book ever! I was hoping for a happy ending and was wondering how the author would pull it off. I was suprised and happy with the ending.

  • Fred

    One of my favorite books ever!! It was so entertaining, full of humor, joy, and pathos. A terrific ending!

  • Anonymous

    This is my all time favorite book, so far. In fact, I just added it back to my rental shelf because I was so sorry it was over that I know I will enjoy listening again. The story is wonderful and the characters are so interesting. I recommend this book to everyone.

  • K.Nelson

    This is one of the best books I read all year (2010)!!!! It was so engaging I couldn't "put it down" as they say. I really felt like I was there watching this story unfold. I could almost smell the scents of the circus! The characters, the animals, the story.......it was breathtaking. I can't WAIT for the movie!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I loved this book. I couldn't put it down - so to speak !

  • Emily

    Water for Elephants was amazing! It was so good, in fact, that I brought out my old disc man so I could listen to it on the train, bus, and before bed as opposed to just in the car. The narrators were fantastic and my mind's eye had such vivid images of the characters! One interesting thing that I'd never heard before was nearing the end of each CD, music would start to play so you knew to get the next disc ready. Brilliant. A truly captivating read. An amazing story. I definitely recommend it.

  • Anonymous

    I struggled with the juxtaposition between growing old and dealing with personal decay and then the decay of his family. I thought that this book gave a lot of insight to growing old in this culture, and also how painful it is to loose yourself in many ways. I had a very hard time listening, but I think that it was a very well written novel.

  • Miss Seaweed

    Another really good listen due in no small part to the reader. Loved the different inflections and accents given to differentiate the characters. The story was moving and the ending spectacular. I was cheering in the car!

  • Patty Alexandria

    I wish EVERY book was like this...! Warm, very different and interesting subject, and made me sooo happy to be in my car! I adored the main character!

  • zoe

    This is one of the best books I have listened too. The story kept me hooked, the ending was very satisfying, and I liked the way the story went from the character as a young man to an aging man and back again. I thought the readers were good as well.

  • ChicagoGirl

    This is the best book that I have listened to this year. Fantastic story. Sometimes sad, sometimes sweet, sometimes tragic. I was completely addicted to this book. I made up excuses to be in the car to listen to the story. I liked it so much that I checked the book out of the libary and encouraged the rest of my family to read it.

  • Anonymous

    Could not stop listnening!!! I found myself wanting to go back in the car to keep listening to the book! The only thing I didn't like was the old man's voice... at first it was hard to understand but after a while you get used to it. Recommend to anyone!

  • Anonymous

    I liked the book more than I thought I would. I especially enjoyed the two voices of the main character. And I have only been to a circus once in my life so I liked the setting of the story and the carnie life. I highly recommend it.

  • Anonymous

    An interesting listen, engaging story. Occasionally I had trouble understanding the older gentleman's reading voice, probably due to car noise.

  • JUDY, S. CA


  • Anonymous

    If you have a parent or loved one with Alzheimer's, this is a must for you. It's read by experts who are very entertaining, as crazy as the story gets, its totally believable, and the story really touches the heart. I couldn't wait to get back in the car to listen to more!

  • Anonymous

    I LOVED this book!!!!!!!!! It was exciting and interesting and well written. Just great!

  • Anonymous

    David Ledoux read this book and was so good I tracked down the other books he read. This book is worth the listen just for him alone. Now add to the mix a phenomenal story. It takes you to a time when people COULD run away with the circus.

  • Anonymous

    One of the best books I have ever heard or read. This story does not remind me of any other book I have ever read. I simply love the contrast in the sounds of the voices between the young man and the same man as a 90 (or 93) year old. Please, please do not miss this story.

  • Lorna

    Book was well read. Story was engaging. Characters were endearing. Enjoyed the ending.

  • Anonymous

    This was a very different book, but that was a good thing. I found it a bit distracting as the story jumped back and forth between the young reader and the old... but that is a matter of taste. The story is very entertaining and I would definitely recommend this audiobook as a change of pace.

  • Anonymous

    This book may have a good story. I don't know. I didn't get that far. It is riddled with offensive language and dialogue. I gave up on it after less than 1/4 of the book, since the offensive material just kept coming and went from bad to worse.

  • Troyanne

    This delightful books provides a refreshing change from the usual fare, beginning with the quirky depression-era circus setting. This book is warm and sad and funny and ironic--with a delightful ending.

  • Yvonne

    I read this book in one day while on vacation. It is a great little book , based on true facts, on a topic about which I knew little to nothing (early 1900s circus in America). What an unexpected and wonderful ending (which I will keep to myself)! Definitely recommended.

  • Steve Y

    This was an excellent story. The presentation was interesting using both old and young Jacob to spin the tale. I was most pleased that it had an outcome even more satisfying than I could have hoped. A great story and a great writer.

  • Dawn Carlson

    I love this recording I found it very entertaining both the old and they young Jacob!

  • Anonymous

    This book had entertaining aspects to it. Especially during the flashback portions of the book, where the best parts of the plot are revealed. The two narrators are distinct, and maybe that's why the older narrator becomes annoying. His voice is stark contrast to the young narrator and much less pleasant to listen to. Otherwise, its a decent novel, but certainly not worth its high ranking on the New York Times best sellers list.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't know what was in store other than this book is a best seller. It moved briskly and had a solid and deliberate story to tell. The significant back and forth of the older Jacob to the younger lent increased visuals to this journey. I clearly saw him as the scruffy voiced resident in a nursing home as well as the young man experiencing new life and everlasting love within the dysfunctional circus family. Read this book. You won't regret it.

  • Anonymous

    Gruen is a solid writer, but I just couldn't get interested in the story. It moved too slowly for me.

  • Anonymous

    The opening of this book sparked my curiosity immensly. However, toward the middle to the end of the book I got a little bored. The ending was unexpected. I did like the reader. He was awesome.

  • Sara S

    I rented this book on a recommendation from a friend. The book is essentially split into to voices, the young Jacob and the old Jacob. The old Jacob bored and depressed me (although I can accept that the old Jacob was supposed to depress me, I don't think he was meant to bore me). The young Jacob was terrific and fun to listen to. I learned something about elephants, and a lot about the circus. In retrospect, the book was a great read if you just skip over the old Jacob voice and concentrate on the young man's story.

  • Anonymous

    This book had me hooked after the first few sentences. I was sad when I put in the last cd. I strongly recommend this book.

  • Anonymous

    Enjoyed the book, but the reader's voice for the main character when he was young (which goes through the whole book) was whiney and petulant. I can't believe the author intended him to sound that way, as there was no trace of that obnoxious tone in the old guy's voice. It sort of wrecked the book for me and I hope a different reader will be selected for the author's future books.

  • Susan Sodon

    This book was excellent - kept me intrigued during my daily commute to and from work. It's a beautiful story with a wonderful ending.

  • Jay Salinger

    What a wonderful book! I've talked to several other people who have read it, and everyone loves it for one reason or another. But everyone loves the ending. I borrowed the book from the library so I could could continue the story when I wasn't in the car. I have to admit, I had two concerns about the book while listening. But the way the stories resolved, I ended up thoroughly delighted.

  • Anonymous

    The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed this book. I enjoy most types of books, and this one took care of the "off the beaten path" book.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely wonderful from beginning to end. The readers were outstanding.

  • Anonymous

    I loved this recording! The story is completely absorbing and vivid. I felt like I was there -- following the circus in the 1930's and the nursing home in the present day. The readers are great -- there is one for the older man and one for the younger, both with fantastic voices. I strongly recommend taking a listen!

  • Lori Childs

    Loved the book!!! Will probably buy the book to have and pass on to dear friends to enjoy as much as I did.

  • Anonymous

    I truly loved listening to this book. I don't usually take the time to write reviews, but I enjoyed this book so much I wanted everyone to know how good it is, and how fast it makes the time go by in the car. It is a long listen, unabridged, but worth the time.

  • Sherry Perkins

    The best book I have read in a long time. I think any age would really enjoy this book.

  • Sherry M.-Midwest

    Best book of the summer and only one I gave 5 stars. You might want to the buy the book for your library too, and experience it again on a cold winter day.

  • Elizabeth H

    This is one of the best books I've listened to and highly recommend it. Having the book narrated by two different people make it even more enjoyable.

  • Janet Homberg

    This by far is my favorite audiobook to date. The narration is entertaining without being overdone, the author takes a unique approach to telling the story, and the plot is really wonderful. It made me laugh and cry. As other reviewers have indicated, I was sorry to finish this book and can't wait for the next from this author.

  • LShafer

    This was a great book and I was upset that I finished it so quickly. Can't wait for Sara's next book.

  • Ana Maria Pacholick

    Great book but even better in audio! Truly one of the best audiobooks I've heard. The characters in the story were really brought to life by the narrators. I loved it. It was so real.

  • Ellen Lacko

    This wonderful story is well narrated by a man with an elderly voice who not only allows the colorful imagery to blossom but also brings the deep pathos inherent in lost youth to the reader's soul.

  • Anonymous

    This was a great book. Very well written. I couldn't stop listening!

  • Kristy R.

    Honestly, the title grabbed me. After the first few chapters I was unsure if I would like it enough to keep listening. It picked up and became a great story. Sort of slower pace but still I was always wanting to not turn it off. I really enjoyed this book and wish it didn't end.

  • Anonymous

    I loved this book! It is about a man who joins the circus by accident and his time spent there. It kept me entertained the whole time. Just the right amount of plot twists. It also toggles between Jacob at age 23 and Jacob at age 93, with age appropriet voices. A very light and easy to follow story. Perfect for when kids are in the car as well.

  • Kathleen Baas

    The story was well-crafted, and struck emotional chords with me regarding growing old, life choices, and circumstances beyond our control. I was re-reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair at the same time, and was surprised that they both detailed the segregation of the have's and have-not's, so well. Definitely worth a look.

  • Anonymous

    A great book! As a veterinarian myself, I find the story trustworthy and well written. I would recommend this book with an open heart!!

  • Jean Dawson

    This by far the best book I've listened to EVER! The descriptions are so real that you feel like you are on the train. I especially love the way it switches from the main character being 23 and then 93. The nursing home scenes are hilarious. A definite must read/listen.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed this book very much. At times I found the book to be very depressing.

  • Karen Edwards

    I listen to lots of books driving to work. I loved "Water for Elephants." The book kept me captive from the very start. With this book when I would get to my destination, I often would remain in the car for a while to keep listening to the tape. It really made me realize how a older person trapped in an old body really feels. Good read!

  • Anonymous

    I've been listening to A LOT of audio books!! Because of my commute, I feel that sometimes it's tough to get into the first CD of many books because I think it will be difficult to keep me entertained. "Water for Elephants" is a great story!! It's something different from what I have been listening to and it kept my interest going. I have already recommended the book to a few people and I must admit it's hard for me to remember most of the titles -- this one has stayed in my memory a lot longer. I'm surprised that people haven't written any reviews on this book -- really really well done (both narrator and author!)

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

has successfully been added to your shopping cart

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
This title is due for release on May 22, 2006.

Enter your email below to be notified as soon as it is available!

By clicking "Notify Me" you consent to receiving electronic marketing communications from Audiobooks.com. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time.

Already a member? Log In to add this title to your wishlist.
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
This title is due for release on May 22, 2006
We'll send you an email as soon as it is available!

Already a member?
Log in to add this title in your wishlist
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Please Log in and add this title to your wishlist.
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

We will send you an email as soon as this title is available.