cover image The Family Fortuna

The Family Fortuna

Lindsay Eagar. Candlewick, $19.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9235-3

Eagar (The Patron Thief of Bread) presents a resplendent family saga set against the backdrop of a traveling circus. In 1889 Texas, 16-year-old Avita Fortuna is the showstopper of her family’s circus. Born with feathers and a beak, she performs a grotesque live-chicken-eating act as the Bird Girl. Her father, the circus’s fast-talking proprietor, dotes on her; her older brother, who was born with dwarfism, is their bookkeeper; her mother is a deeply devout former sharpshooter; and her older sister reigns as the “duchess of the kootchie tent, the red-hot queen of the circus nightlife.” An unplanned stop in Peculiar, Tex., turns taxing when the Fortunas discover that their arch-rival circus, Le Cirque Americana, is also in town, setting the stage for a brutal contest of attractions. As her father grows more frantic in his ringmaster duties and butts heads with her brother, Avita dreams of a life beyond the circus, especially when a young artist’s portrait of her prompts reexamination of her role in the family. By combining a beguiling premise with sinister ambiance, complex characterizations, and arresting, literary-leaning language, Eagar presents an absorbing read that examines the effect of familial pressures and conflict on one’s mental health and self-perception. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary. (Mar.)