Jacob Janowski is a 90-or-93-year-old man spending the rest of his remaining years in a nursing home, desolate and alone, he reminisces about his sad but chaotic life as a member of the renowned circus, Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
Way back then, Jacob was a veterinary school freshman at Cornell. He was just about to take his finals when he heard the devastating news about the death of his parents in a car accident.
His mind blanks as his world collapses on him. Without warning or reason, he ran away and found himself working for a circus.
Jacob's talent with animals (and his unfinished veterinarian degree) lands him as position as the official circus vet. As he travels all over the country suffering from the after effects of the Depression, he becomes an important member of the circus, after managing to find a niche in the big crowd of dirty laborers, midgets, freak show clowns and the top circus performers.
The novel presents a harsh condition of a poor economy, starving circus members, abused animals and brutal, greedy owners. Yet there is beauty in this ugliness and chaos as Jacob falls in love with the circus, with its beautiful horses and morose monkeys, angry lions and the extremely special Rosie the elephant; and finally falls for a married showgirl where all trouble ensues. The story simply engulfs you from the first page to the last.