This book is one that I never would have picked up on my own. But one day as I scrolled through Pinterest, I read through a list of “books you have to read before you die” or something like that, and this was one of the top listed novels. So I figured if so many people loved it, it had to be a decent read. Little did I know, after finally picking it up after is sat for months on my bookshelf, this would soon become one of my all time favorite novels.
It is a tale of redemption, love and lust, self-discovery, and historical accuracy. Children may still claim they will ‘run off and join the circus,’ but this book is set when this was a reality. Although the protagonist, Jacob, landed himself on the Benzini Brother’s train by accident, the rag tag circus team was made up of misfits and failures, came together searching for work in the depression era, struggling to keep themselves fed.
The book tells the story of Jacob, an almost Ivy-League educated veterinarian, who has no family left to return to after a tragic car accident and accidentally jumps aboard the circus train. From this point, he takes any work that is available, trying to keep himself fed and housed. As the novel progresses, his position within the show escalates as he becomes the show’s veterinarian, as well as taking up the responsibility of training a full grown elephant to perform circus tricks. His struggle with the elephant parallels his struggle with authority and love as he begins to realize where his passions lie, who he truly loves, and what it is he is willing to do to follow those passions and keep the love alive.
The novel is exceptionally suspenseful, while leaving enough hints that it never gets too frustrating. Sara Gruen brings to life a whole-hearted story of love and personal growth, while maintaining historical accuracy to enhance the value of the story. this is now one of my all time favorite reads, so please go read it so we can talk about it. 10/10.