2007 One Read Program: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

About the Book

Water for Elephants

As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.Algonquin Books, Publisher

"At its finest, 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. . . . Black-and-white photographs of real American circus scenes from the first half of the century are interspersed throughout the novel, and they brilliantly evoke the dignified power contained in the quieter moments of this unusual brotherhood. . . . 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

‘Water for Elephants’: Sara Gruen’s hit summer paperback

"Despite the presence of not one but two Oprah Winfrey selections in bookstores, it is a sleeper hit from last year that has muscled its way to being a big paperback read this summer." More…

—International Herald Tribune


About the Author

Sara Gruen has this to say about herself:

Sara Gruen

"I am a transplanted Canadian (now also an American citizen) who moved to the States in 1999 for a technical writing job. Two years later I got laid off. Instead of looking for another job, I decided to take a gamble on writing fiction full-time. Fortunately, the gamble paid off and I’m currently working on my fourth novel, ‘Ape House.’

I now live in Northern Illinois with my husband, three children, two dogs, three cats, two goats and horse in an environmentalist community. Eventually, I hope to live somewhere warm!"

Gruen is also the author of "Riding Lessons" and "Flying Changes."

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One Read is generously underwritten by the Friends of the Columbia Public Library and made possible by organizations in our community. We thank all of our partners on the task force for their support.