This is a book that I had seen around for a while, thought the title sounded incredibly intriguing and I finally bought it. I was hooked from the first chapter, but had to put it down to finish the Pullman trilogy, and picked it back up again Tuesday night, finished it last night. I couldn't stop reading it. I was pulled into the story of a lovely (albeit disgruntled) old man, Jacob, living in an assisted living center and just a few chapters into the book, the reader understands what is happening. As his memory is fading, the memories of when he was young become more vivid and at times the distance between what he remembers and what he is living, for him, becomes non-existant.
This book is an incredible tale of the circus life in the 1930's, depicting the struggles and the shocking conditions that the people and animals find themselves in at times during their journeys. I thought the sensory description was outstanding, the development of the characters made me love or hate them without feeling like the author was telling me why I should love or hate them. I just showed.
This is also a book which, after reading, has made me commit that regardless of what happens to me and my life, I will never put a loved one in an assisted living situation just because they are old. Jacob doesn't have any mental illnesses, doesn't have any physical conditions that make him capable of taking care of himself other than the fact that he is old. There are elements of this book that are very sad, but the ending brought a great resolution and left me very satisfied.
Side Note: there are some mature scenes involving nudity and sex and the language is that of 1930's circus workers - not throughout like a Vietnam novel, but it's there. Recommended for mature readers only.