Genre: Historical Fiction, Audiobook
Source: Borrowed paperback from boyfriend’s mom; audiobook from library
"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."
Jacob is in the last weeks of veterinary school at Cornell when he is hit with a massive shock: the death of both of his beloved parents, and more importantly the loss of everything he owns to the bank. This is the throws of the Depression. He does what every man would do in his situation, hops a train to anywhere only to find out it is the circus train of The Benzini Bros. Greatest Show on Earth! As the show’s veterinarian he forms a close relationship with crazy August (the equestrian trainer), his wife Marlena (a performer), and Rosie (the elephant). As the days go on, life on the circus gets crazier and crazier, until one day all hell breaks loose. What will Jacob do next?
Gruen does an amazing job of researching the life of circus workers during the Depression. At no time did I feel that the details were out of place. You could feel the desperation of the roustabouts when they were continually not paid, resorted to drinking bootleg liquor, ran out of food. Reading this book was like stepping back in time.
I loved this book! It is easily very near the top of my favorite books list. According to the author's website Fox 2000 has purchased the rights to this book to make a movie and hear rumor that Reese Witherspoon might be cast as Marlena. I think it would make a fantastic movie.
This book is narrated by two voices – that of the 90 something year old Jacob (retelling the events as he remembers them) and that of the 20 something year old Jacob (experiencing the events). The audiobook did an amazing job of casting two narrators and it made it one of the best books I have listened too. You were easily able to tell at what time you were by who was narrating and it made it feel so real.
If you haven't read this book yet, you can check out an excerpt.
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Also By Sara Gruen:
At the Water's Edge
Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court