At the opening of this debut novel, readers are introduced to Simon Watson, a young librarian living in his family home on the Long Island sound. Simon’s mother drowned when he and his sister, Enola, were young and his father died shortly after. The house sits on the edge of a cliff and is slowly falling apart due to Simon’s lack of care and money to protect it from the impending water. One day Simon receives a mysterious book from a collector who found his grandmother’s name written in it’s front. The book appears to be a circus log documenting stops, performers, acts, etc. As Simon begins to research, he comes to find that his family is connected to this circus in ways that he could have never imagined.
Over the past few years, I have become of fan of books about circuses. I loved The Night Circus and Water for Elephants. I picked up this book hoping that it, too, would be a great circus novel. I was not disappointed. The chapters in the novel alternate between present day with Simon and the time period when the circus log was actually being created. Swyler intricately weaves the two time periods together as the novel progresses and gives us a story about books, family, and curses. After the first chapter or so, I was hooked and had to force myself to put it down to do other necessary tasks.