Sara Gruen (born 1969 in Vancouver[1]) is an author with dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship. Her books often deal with animals and she supports numerous charitable organizations that support animals and wildlife.[2] She is a 2007 recipient of an Alex Award.

Sara Gruen
Born1969 (age 52–53)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Early life and educationEdit

Gruen was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.[2] She recounts being left to survive on her own at age 15 as a street urchin.[3] She grew up in London, Ontario, and attended Carleton University in Ottawa[2][4] to get a degree in English literature. She continued to live in Ottawa for 10 years after graduation.[2]


Gruen moved to the United States from Ottawa in 1999 for a technical writing job.[5] When she was laid off two years later, she decided to try writing fiction. Gruen is an animal lover; both her first novel, Riding Lessons, and her second novel, Flying Changes, involve horses. Gruen's third book, the 1930s circus drama Water for Elephants, was initially turned down by her publisher at the time, Avon Books; as a result, Gruen found another publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.[6] It went on to become a New York Times bestseller and is now available in 45 languages and as a 2011 film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, and Robert Pattinson.[5] Her fourth novel, Ape House, centers around the Bonobo ape[5] and was sold to Spiegel & Grau on the basis of a 12-page summary.[6] Ape House is published by Two Roads Books. Her fifth novel, At the Water's Edge, was published in 2015.


Gruen's awards include being the BookSense #1 pick for June 2006, the Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Fiction 2007, the Cosmo Fun Fearless Fiction Award 2007, the BookBrowse Diamond Award Best Book 2006, the Great Lakes Book Award for Fiction 2007, the Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for fiction, the ALA/Alex Award 2007, the Carl Sandburg Award, 21st Century Fiction, 2007, and the Friends of American Literature Adult Fiction Award. Additionally, she was a 2006 Quill Award nominee for General Fiction, and a nominee for the Entertainment Weekly Best Novel of 2006. She also received a Doctorate of Humane Letters, Causa Honoris, from Wittenberg University.[5]

Involvement with the Charles Murdoch caseEdit

In June 2015, Gruen received a letter from Charles Murdoch, an inmate at a California prison.[3] Murdoch is serving a life sentence without parole for murder. His letter praised Water for Elephants and also described the circumstances of his case. He told Gruen that former chief justice Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “described my (wrongful) conviction as ‘a truly spectacular miscarriage of justice.’”[7] Murdoch's conviction was upheld by the California Court of Appeal despite Kozinski's doubts that he had received a fair trial. Gruen began to correspond with Murdoch and took up the cause of attempting to overturn his conviction, believing Murdoch's prosecution to have depended on a coerced confession by witness Dino Dinardo. She hired attorneys and investigators at her own expense, including former Los Angeles District Attorney's Office prosecutor Robin Sax,[3] eventually spending more than half a million dollars on her fight to free Murdoch.[citation needed] Despite her efforts, Murdoch remains incarcerated, waiting for a response from the Los Angeles County’s Conviction Review Unit.[3]

In Gruen's own words, the effort to exonerate Murdoch has left her "absolutely broke", as she borrowed money against her home, and "seriously ill", with her writing work "years past deadline". Fearful of threats to her life, real or imagined, she left her home in spring 2018 and moved repeatedly to avoid being tracked, though she eventually returned to Asheville.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Gruen lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband, the youngest of her three[3] sons,[8] and numerous pets, including horses Tia and Fancy.[3]


  1. ^ Gardner, Suzanne (December 15, 2013). "Sara Gruen". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved August 30, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Miller, Erin Collazo (2006-07-28). "Sara Gruen Interview". About. Archived from the original on 18 July 2007. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kahler, Abbott (24 March 2021). "How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 March 2021. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Sara Gruen Author". HarperCollinsCanada. Harper Perennial. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  5. ^ a b c d "Sara Gruen Biography". Sara Gruen. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  6. ^ a b Rich, Notoko (2007-07-11). "Big Time for a Novel Set Under the Big Top". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-01-30. Retrieved 2007-12-23.
  7. ^ Murdoch v. Castro, 609 F.3d 983, 1009 (9th Cir. 2010)
  8. ^ Rosenfeld, Jordan (2008-04-22). "The WD Interview: Sara Gruen". Writers Digest. Archived from the original on 1 October 2020. Retrieved 2011-04-02.

External linksEdit