A starred or boxed review indicates a book of outstanding quality. A review with a blue-tinted title indicates a book of unusual commercial interest that hasn't received a starred or boxed review.
Life literally turns into a high-wire act for the European Gypsy family at the center of Canadian writer Galloway's second novel (after Finnie Walsh), as they escape persecution in Hungary just before WWII and go on to become a featured circus act in the U.S. Salvo Ursari is forced to leave Transylvania as a young boy when he and his father are accused of setting a fire in their village church. Ursari flees to Budapest and finds his calling as a tightrope walker, with his brother and sister joining him in a family act. They work their way up on the carnival circuit in Europe, then emigrate to America in 1938 and become part of the legendary Fisher-Fielding circus. Life seems complete when Salvo falls in love with Anna Simpson, a spectator who is enthralled by his performance. But when Ursari's son Daniel joins the act years later, the epileptic seizures he conceals threaten everyone's safety and lead to tragedy during the troupe's famous death-defying trick, "the House." The descriptions of circus life and tightrope walking are riveting, and Galloway supplies crisp narration, delivering his plot twists in tight, well-constructed scenes. But he rarely gets beneath the surface of the various family members, and only Salvo Ursari really comes to life. Despite the plot's inherent potential for drama, the weakness of the human element gives the story an oddly sterile feel. Agent, Carolyn Swayze. Foreign rights sold in Australia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Poland and Sweden. (Sept.)
Release date: 08/01/2003