The description of this novel initially reminded me of Geek Love, one of my favorite novels. Once I started reading, the book first reminded me more of the HBO series Carnivale. But even that comparison faded as I read deeper into the novel. I loved this book. First of all, the prose is absolutely gorgeous. I was unfamiliar with Carol Birch, though she's written many previous novels. I will seek those out, as she is an amazing writer. As one of the characters herein says to himself, "Good god, man, you've got a way with words," a phrase that I would apply to Ms. Birch herself. Just one example of another sentence that just jumped out and slapped me across the face: "He heard the sound of her smiling." (The characters are in the dark in this scene.) So, the writing is great, but the story itself is fascinating as well. The novel chronicles the life of Julia Pastrana, a mid-19th century woman who was born with a couple grotesque conditions, and made her way through life as a circus sideshow freak. I had heard of, and seen pictures of, her before, but this book made me do some research and find out more about her. Historic fiction is not a common genre for me, and I was impressed and amazed with how Birch took the basic facts of Julia's life (all true) and created this amazing portrait of her and her life (fictionalized). One of the more challenging aspects of the book (for me) is that there are sections that take the reader out of Julia's story and deal with a woman named Rose in the present day. These sections are always very short and appear only infrequently. They are a bit jarring in the narrative (which, I imagine, was part of the intent), and often left me wondering as to their purpose. I did figure out the (rather gruesome) connection before it was finally revealed, making those sections more satisfying for me. I would encourage anyone interested to look up some information on Julia Pastrana; the book takes some time to reveal who or what she really is. Julia's life (and what happened after) was tragic, but Carol Birch has created a heartwarming and endearing portrait of her. I loved this book, one of the best I've read in awhile.