Honestly, I didn't want to read this book. A friend had told me about it years ago, and many more since, but I kept thinking: "A circus, during the depression? That can't be good!" Well, let me say, I was wrong! It is about a circus. It is set during the depression. And it is very, very good!
Jacob Jankowski has his entire life laid out. Finish veterinary school at Cornell, go back home, and work with his father in their small-town vet clinic. Then, tragedy strikes and his entire life is taken away from him. Suddenly faced with no family, no home, and no money, Jacob starts walking. And walking. And walking. When a train comes by, he takes a literal leap into an entire new world.
The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth is a rag-tag group of misfits, runaways, freaks, and talents. When the show's ringmaster discovers that an ivy-league veterinarian has just hopped the train, he cannot believe his luck. Jacob is immediately put to work caring for the menagerie of sad-eyed traveling animals. As Jacob falls further under the spell of the animals and their beautiful mistress, he also begins to realize the sinister cycle of terror and neglect in which they are all trapped. Under deepening suspicion and hostility, Jacob must form a plan to save himself, his lover, and his animals from the destruction of an increasingly volatile situation.
This book is so layered with amazingly interesting and quirky characters, many of whom have four legs rather than two. It has a great balance of social commentary, romance, action, and fantasy. It is a beautifully told story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.