When I was just a tyke, my parents took me to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. I was more excited about my giant tub of popcorn and massive cotton-candy cloud than the skill of the aerialists or the contortionists’ unimaginable poses.
I’m sure there was plenty of glitz and glamour under that tent.
I’m sure I was wowed by tight-rope walkers and fire-eaters making the impossible possible.
I’m sure I begged for a unicycle.
I’m sure I was mesmerized by the magic of it all.
Now, as a grown-up in the real world, I’m sure there’s not nearly enough magic in my life.
But I bet I’ll find some in Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, H. P. Wood’s fiction endeavor from Sourcebooks. It’s a hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.
Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island’s newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty’s mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty’s new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island…or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.
“With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where “normal” is the exception to the rule.”
I think back to my afternoon at the Ringling circus with a twinge of regret. I bet I missed a lot of that spun-sugar-magic under the tent.
Ah, but I can’t wait to get my copy of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. I expect I’ll be transported into another place and time.
I think I just found a brilliant reminder that it’s never too late to join the circus.
ps Today’s prompt: Connected. Isn’t it sweet how books connect us?