Water for Elephants: A Novel

Algonquin Books

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out—orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act—in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.
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About the author

Sara Gruen was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1969. Before becoming a full-time fiction author, she worked as a technical writer. She has written several novels including At the Water's Edge, Ape House, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes. Her novel, Water for Elephants, appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List for more than 4 years and was adapted into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz in 2011.

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Additional Information

Algonquin Books
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Published on
Dec 31, 2006
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Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this thrilling new novel from the author of Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen again demonstrates her talent for creating spellbinding period pieces. At the Water’s Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman’s awakening as she experiences the devastation of World War II in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands.

After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.
The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.
As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life’s beauty and surprising possibilities.

Praise for At the Water’s Edge
“Breathtaking . . . a daring story of adventure, friendship, and love in the shadow of WWII.”—Harper’s Bazaar
“A gripping, compelling story . . . Gruen’s characters are vividly drawn and her scenes are perfectly paced.”—The Boston Globe
“A page-turner of a novel that rollicks along with crisp historical detail.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Powerfully evocative.”—USA Today
“Gruen is a master at the period piece—and [this] novel is just another stunning example of that craft.”—Glamour
“A captivating tale.”—Us Weekly
“Compulsively readable . . . a rich, beautiful novel . . . at once a gripping love story, a profound examination of the effects of war on ordinary women, and a compelling portrait of female friendship.”—Kristin Hannah
“Utterly winning.”—The Miami Herald
“A compelling, enthralling read, a novel which captivates and rewards, paying off in a series of emotional and narrative twists . . . comfort reading of the highest order.”—The Globe and Mail
“A super steamy love story.”—Good Housekeeping
“Unique in its setting and scope, this impeccably researched historical fiction is full of the gorgeous prose I’ve come to expect from this author.”—Jodi Picoult
“[Gruen] conveys the lure of the Scottish Highlands. . . . At the Water’s Edge captivates with its drama, intrigue and glimpses of both the dark and light of humanity.”—BookPage

From the Hardcover edition.
The wildly entertaining new novel from the bestselling author of Water for Elephants.

BONUS: This edition contains a reader's guide.
Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

Ape House delivers great entertainment, but it also opens the animal world to us in ways few novels have done, securing Sara Gruen’s place as a master storyteller who allows us to see ourselves as we never have before.
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