by Zena Ryder (BC, Canada): Brutal and beautiful. Heartbreaking and romantic. Harsh and tender. Tragic and magical. Painful and delightful.

The story is about two orphans abandoned as babies in a Montreal orphanage in 1910. They grow up together and love each other and, because they both turn out to be talented performers, they end up putting on shows in rich people’s homes and raising funds for the orphanage.

As teens, they’re separated when they leave the orphanage, each left to try to survive poverty as the Great Depression deepens.

This book is one of the weirdest I’ve ever read. (Not weird in a confusing way like Cormac McCarthy’s new books. Nothing in it was confusing.) It’s weird because the main characters/author see the world in such a captivating, unique way that it takes you off guard and make you see the world sideways.

It’s also weird because it’s so EXTREME in many respects — there are clowns, prostitutes, nuns, gangsters… — and it veers into magical realism in parts. It’s violent and awful, but also the love between the two main characters was beautifully captured and brought tears to my eyes.

It needs pretty much every content warning, so I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. It’s also one of those books that you know some people are going HATE, and I totally get that. And those people will probably think readers who like this book are weird, even sick.

The writing is sometimes really over the top — SO MANY metaphors and similes! — but it somehow works for me because this book is really over the top, in terms of plot and content. The over-the-top writing is like a beautiful, precisely choreographed, acrobatic… clown show. It’s doesn’t do anything by halves. It is everything all at once.

And, oh my gosh, that ending. Perfect.