A thoroughly delightful book. The book alternates between the 93 year-old Jacob in a nursing home and the 23 year-old Jacob who becomes the caretaker of a circus menagerie. The author poignantly portrays the elderly Jacob, frustrated at the limitations of old age and abandoned by his family, in stark contrast with his youth and his adventures with a circus where society's misfits survive because of their fierce loyalty to each other. The author has done her homework into the historical world of the traveling circus, bringing it vividly to life, and incorporating real-life anecdotes from her research. In both worlds, Jacob refuses to settle for the fate life has given him, standing up to abuse, maintaining his moral compass, and surviving against the odds. The ending is improbable, but heart-warming. You'll be cheering Jacob on.
Description from book jacket"
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was ultimately their only hope for survival.