This deeply emotional story unfolds as a series of memories by an old man in a nursing home. They begin with Jacob, a veterinary student who learns his parents have been killed. Devastated, he leaves school and jumps a circus train where, given his background, he is hired to care for the animals. The equestrian director, August, is a charming, generous man, but also brutal to people and the animals, especially the elephant Rosie. Jacob falls in love with August’s wife Marlena who leaves the circus to get away from her husband. Jacob is told he must get August and Marlena back together or members of the circus team will be dropped. Marlena returns. Jacob tries to kill August, but can’t go through with it even when members of the team are fired. Several of these workers return and release the animals, causing a stampede during the performance. In the ensuing panic, Rosie the elephant takes a stake and drives it into August’s head. This is a magnificent book, but be warned there are graphic scenes of animal cruelty.