Publisher: Algonquin Books, April 9 2006
Paperback 335 pages
"Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell." Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
I really loved this story. It's about an elderly man who is living in a nursing home. When the circus comes to town, it triggers his memories of working for the Benzini Brothers circus, memories both good and bad. There are flashbacks between Jacob living in the nursing home and the circus, which I enjoyed. You'll fall in love with Rosie, the elephant! She's a real survivor and a character you won't soon forget. I hear there may be a movie in the works. Guess I'll Google that:-)
Last summer my son and I went on a fun vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. One of my favorite attractions was the Circus World Museum in Baraboo Wisconsin. For the admission fee of just $14.95, we enjoyed a large part of our day taking in a magic show, exploring the many exhibits, and marveling at the huge collection of circus wagons. Baraboo is the former winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Many of the original buildings are still there. If we had time, we could have watched a one ring circus show and the Tiger Show. I highly recommend a visit to this historic site.