From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets–beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.
On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.
More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.
At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.
Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.
Was it monster living in the attic? Or was the mother the real monster? It is up to reader to make their choices.
Beign both a mother and a woman who was born different, it was very difficult to read this book. I am blessed with loving and caring parents, with amazingly strong and wise mother who persisted, supported and encoraged me all through my life. My mum has been to hell an back with me so many times I stopped counting at 24 years of age.
Lily, poor Lily. My heart bled for her. I cried for her. Her pain, anguish, helplessness and hopelessness were so acute, so sharp all throughout the book, the author should be proud.
Lily’s story does not have a happy ending. Her story continues through her daughter (spoiler). Any hope for bright future was only possible through complete destruction of the past, good and bad. What a heartwrenching story.
Reading the book I have read other reviews. People were shocked at animal cruelty segments of the book. Yes, those bits are not for light-hearted readers. However, what I found more cruel, clod, heartless was not human cruelty to animals, but human cruelty to humans. It was boundless.
What I found the worst of all was the behavior of Lily’s parents. Even all the cold, greedy, sadistic actions of circus’ bosses can be understood on their level and perspective. But Lily’s father and especially mother? No, never.
What sort of God allowas a mother to behave like that? If there is such a God I do not want to believe in it. No matter what, this woman does not give in or give up. Julie (spoiler) was right, this woman is the one who is not normal, a freak. It is her who was born with parts missing. She was born defected. She was born with cold heart.
The Life She Was Given is not really a life. It is an attempt. It is an attempt at life, escape, love, escape, love, escape, life. It is a constant trying action. Lily almost succeeds only to fall so much deeper, so much more painfully.
I honestly do not know how the author managed to keep writing this book to the end. Reading it was extremely difficult. Hoping fo something better for Lily, for the pain to stop only to see something even more horrible to happen to her, was really trying on all my emotions.
Even gringing everything to an end, giving characters and readers hope for redemption and better future, author managed to keep readers hurting and gasping.
I guess one can see the light only when there is dark…