In the prologue I thought that Marlena had killed August, and so I was surprised upon learning it was actually Rosie. I think the bit that made the surprise so great for me was that the murder is described as having definite intention. The unnamed murderer in the prologue is well aware of what she is doing and that this particular action will result in August’s death and that’s the result she’s looking for. This level of understanding of one’s action is something I ascribe to people, not animals, so that’s why I believed it to be Marlena. I mean animals kill in anger, like a dog that’s been aggravated and attacks the one who’s hurt it. There’s no thought involved, it’s just pure instinct. For this reason, it seemed unlikely that the elephant was the killer in the prologue. Then when I got to the author’s note at the end and she described other instances of elephants killing people, I thought that maybe, just maybe, elephants can murder not just kill. And as someone pointed out to me: an elephant never forgets.
Gruen’s research is clearly evident throughout the book. She totally and very believably recreated the Depression-era circus in terms of what happened on the train circus and the specialized vocabulary of the circus. The only word I really knew going into it was “rube.” This book introduced me to a new world. I fully understand how Gruen got so caught up in the circus stories that she had to keep researching and drop her other book idea to write about this.
The ending was apt: Jacob’s story came full circle. It’s a lucky break, and he had many of those once the Benzini circus fell apart, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. A good book, and I would totally recommend it to anyone.