As a feathered and sequined changeling, Lo holds circus audiences spellbound, forgetting that for those who venture outside the big top, there is no safety net.
Sheltered in their vans, protected by tradition, sisters Lo and Rita journey through the countryside in modern-day England, performing increasingly dangerous trapeze feats and drawing crowds to their circus tent. The secure world of the showman travelers hinges on isolation from “flatties,” devotion to kin, and a steadfast commitment to a wandering way of life that is generations old. However, the tightknit circus community unravels when Lo falls in love with a boy from the outside and family secrets can no longer remain hidden. Lo’s tragic end is apparent in the opening pages, but alternating chapters told in the first-person voices of the sisters unveil the events that bring about her ultimate fall. With delicate language, Heathfield (Paper Butterflies, 2017, etc.) parallels the illusions that create circus magic with hints at sexual identity, a mother’s betrayal, and a grandfather’s grief, tenderly painting a world clinging to its storied past. Prejudices on both sides of the big top add another thoughtful layer to this gem of a novel, one that is sure to be savored. Characters readers will miss long after the book is closed combine tender innocence and fierce loyalty. Limited physical descriptions make ethnicities difficult to determine.
Like a beautiful starling, Lo is too fragile on her own for the harsh life of the flat world. (Fiction. 14-adult)