WFE is a fascinating book in which an older man alternately reflects on his encroaching senility and frailty (he’s in his 90’s in an assisted living facility) and recounts his memories of his time spent as a veterinarian with a traveling circus in the 1930’s. The circus memories are, not surprisingly, a bit salty (language, some sexual scenes, and violence), and, in my opinion, those are a little more pronounced when heard in audio format as opposed to simply reading them silently. However, the book is quite interesting; the salty elements are, for the most part, not condoned/encouraged; and the reflections on old age are wonderfully written. Gruen elevates the story from a simple coming-of-age plot in an interesting setting to a much more insightful reflection on humanity and aging. (Given the unsavory elements, this is not a book to listen to when children/less mature audiences will be listening.)
HighBridge Audio’s production of this novel was Audible.com’s “Best of 2006–Fiction Winner” and for good reason. There are two narrators (David LeDoux and John Randolph Jones) so that the reflections of the older man are recounted in an older sounding voice and the circus memories are recounted by a much younger sounding man. Both men are excellent narrators and enter fully into their characters. A well written story narrated by talented performers is such an experience!