If you strip away the circus aspect of this book, your left with what amounts to a rather typical love triangle. But, the fact that the circus aspect is so detailed and obviously so well researched is what makes this a good read.
The story is told from the point of view of an old man in a nursing home who is awaiting his family to take him to the circus. As he waits he thinks back to his own days with a traveling circus. After tragedy hits his family, a young Jacob Janowski runs away from his responsibilities and jumps a train in the middle of the night. Unbeknown to Jacob, he's just joined the circus.
Soon after he is appointed the circus' vet, and falls in love with one of the performers and later, a large elephant. The girl, however, is married to his boss. A cruel and angry man that has a habit of mistreating animals and people alike.
Sara Gruen manages to pull the reader into the atmosphere of a depression era circus with impressive imagery and highly flawed characters. As a result, what could have been a run of the mill story becomes an entertaining read filled with a few comedic and tear jerking moments.
4out of 5 stars