Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Sara Gruen  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Fiction Other

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1969 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Illinois Connection

Gruen and her family lived in Grayslake, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Sara Gruen is an author with dual Canadian and American citizenship. She moved to the United States from Ottawa in 1999 for a technical writing job. Laid off two years later, she started writing fiction about animals. Gruen loves animals. Her third book, ''Water for Elephants'', became a ''New York Times'' bestseller and is available in 43 languages. It was made into a major motion picture in 2011 and starred Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz and is now headed to Broadway. Gruen currently resides in North Carolina.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Riding Lessons
ISBN: 0739439820

Harper. 2004

A poignant and unforgettable novel in the powerful tradition of The Horse Whisperer.

Flying Changes ----SIGNED----
ISBN: 0739460641

Harper Torch. 2005

Great book!

Water for Elephants: A Novel
ISBN: 1565124995

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 2006

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―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.

Ape House: A Novel
ISBN: 0385523211

Spiegel & Grau. 2010

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.

At the Water's Edge: A Novel
ISBN: 0385523238

Spiegel & Grau. 2015

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


Ape House

  • American Book Association IndieBound best seller
  • New York Times, USA Today, Boston Globe, Denver Post, L.A. Times, and Publishers Weekly best seller
  • Water for Elephants

  • A New York Times best seller for over four years
  • No.1 best seller on New York Times, Boston Globe, Denver Post, L.A. Times, Publishers Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post
  • USA Today and Wall Street Journal best seller
  • American Book Association IndieBound best seller
  • No.1 IndieNext selection
  • Riding Lessons

  • USA Today best seller

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)

    For appearances please email