The book is told from a 90-some year old Jacob Jankowski who now lives in a nursing home. A circus is coming to town and the entire nursing home is in a fit of excitement. This begins to bring back Jacobs old memories from the time when he was twenty-three years old and attending veterinary school at Cornell. One the day of Jacob’s final exam, he finds out his parents died in a car crash and his father had incredible debt. Before finishing his exam and qualifying to be an official vet, Jacob runs away. He sneaks onto a moving train at night to find out it’s a circus train. The owner of the circus, Uncle Al, finds out about Jacobs vet training and hires him to take of the animals. Jacobs shares quarters with a Midget named Walter, whose relationship with Jacob starts off sour, but eventually leads them to become good friends. Soon afterwards, the two of them bring an immobilized man named Camel to share their living quarters. The two of them hide Camel there at the fear of him being red-lighted if discovered he can no longer move his arms or legs.
Jacob begins working with the animal trainer August and the two of them become semi-friends. Jacobs noticed something strange about August in his behavior in episodes where he seems to become a different person. August is a violent animal trainer, much to Jacob’s disgust. August soon introduces Jacob to his beautiful wide Marlena, and Jacob immediately becomes enamored with her. Looking at the other side of stuff, the circus attendance is dwindling and people don’t seem to respond to their performances. Uncle Al decides to buy an elephant named Rosie thinking she will bring up attendance; however, Rosie doesn’t seem to be able to perform any tricks and seems utterly useless. To Jacob however, Rosie is the second thing he falls in love with at the circus. August turns his violent nature onto Rosie and takes to beating her constantly. His violent behavior towards both Rosie and Marlena starts to draw some tension in his relationship with Jacob.
This book doesn’t shy away from the gritty stuff. The circus owner, Uncle Al, is a horribly corrupt and abusive man. He doesn’t often pay his workers on pay day, and is known to red-light workers he deems useless. The term “red-light” means to toss someone off the moving train in the dead of night. The workers that are red-lighted are either killed or horribly injured. There might be a teary moment in the book when some characters get red-lighted.
Overall the book is quite gripping and you won’t want to put it down the further in you read it. I think Jacob’s character was written and developed really well! I certainly hope Robert Pattinson can pull of his character- it’ll be a tough one. I certainly didn’t imagine anything even closely resembling Robert Pattinson to be Jacob, who if I recall correctly, is suppose to be an unattractive ginger. Another thing, I certainly respect Reese Witherspoon as an actress, but I definitely did not imagine her as Marlene. I think Reese Witherspoon is fully capable to stealing the screen and shining in her role, but that’s the exact opposite of what Marlena’s presence in the book was. Marlena was more of a quite, modest presence and seemed to speak to Jacob indirectly and subtly influence his character development. The book was all about Jacob really, and Jacob alone. I’m going to have to see how these two do on screen together tomorrow. Christoph Waltz on the other hand is peeeeerfect for August.
Final Score- 9/10