Jacob tells the reader about how he came to join the circus after walking out on his final exams in veterinary school. He was inches away from becoming a certified vet, just like his father, and taking over the family practice, but when his father dies suddenly and Jacob learns there is no longer a practice to run, he walks away from the only life he ever knew and proceeds to join a failing circus...as their vet. It is the time of the Great Depression and also a time where the Ringling Brothers Circus is starting its upward climb to stardom and Jacob's circus is constantly trying to catch up.
We learn firsthand the horrific situation that Jacob has gotten himself into, caring for many abused and starving animals, as well as abused and starving circus employees. The animal manager of the show, August, is a crazy man that leaves no animal unharmed, but focuses his rage mainly on Rosie, the show's sole elephant. While Jacob vows to protect the animals, a task none-too easy, he also manages to fall in love with Marlena, August's wife. A move of the heart certainly, but also an almost guaranteed death sentence. The couple are afraid to leave the show, with the animals being in August's hands, but they cannot continue loving each other and working under the big top of this circus. A huge number of dilemmas are handed to Jacob, each one seeming more complicated than the last.
I was enthralled by this delicious novel and am sorry I waited so long to read it. I should really get over my decision to wait until all the hype over books is done before reading it....when a book is grabbed up by millions of readers, that says something! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale of the circus, which is also filled with an awesome love story, as well as tragic circumstances the characters are determined to overcome. This is a definite must read!