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The Circus Train by Amita Parikh
Historical fiction

The Circus Train

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Amita Parikh, on your first book!

by Amita Parikh

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Quick take

All the world’s a stage in this moving WWII story about a traveling circus and finding your path in dark times.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational

    Inspirational

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International

    International

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish

    Movieish

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Underdog

    Underdog

Synopsis

At the World of Wonders, Europe’s most magnificent traveling circus, every moment is full of magic, and nothing is as it seems—especially for the people who put on the show.

Lena Papadopoulos has never quite found her place within the circus, even as the daughter of the extraordinary headlining illusionist, Theo. Brilliant and curious, Lena yearns for the real-world magic of science and medicine, despite her father’s overprotection and the limits her world places on her because she is disabled.

Her unconventional life takes an exciting turn when she rescues Alexandre, an orphan with his own secrets and a mysterious past. Over several years, as their friendship flourishes and Alexandre trains as the illusionist’s apprentice, World War II escalates around them. When Theo and Alexandre are contracted to work and perform in a model town for Jews set up by the Nazis, Lena becomes separated from everything she knows. Forced to make her own way, Lena must confront her doubts and dare to believe in the impossible—herself.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Circus Train.
The Circus Train

PROLOGUE

May 1929

Thessaloniki, Greece

“Twenty-four, maybe forty-eight hours.” Dr. Komninos delivered his diagnosis as though he were reciting a weather report or the answer to a math problem. He tucked his stethoscope in his black leather medical bag and snapped it shut, the shiny front buckle casting a shard of light across the room.

“Is there anything I can do?” Theo asked, grief cloaking his face.

Dr. Komninos hesitated. He knew Theo lived in a world of hope, of make-believe, of what could be. But there was no denying the truth about his wife.

“I’m afraid it’s too late for Gia. A cold towel will make the pain more bearable. Your daughter, however . . .” The doctor trailed off. Over the years, he’d learned that the most difficult aspect of being a physician was giving people false expectations. Pragmatic to a fault, he thought it was always best to err on the side of caution.

“Yes?” Theo asked, wringing his hands.

“Once the fever subsides, I’ll have a better idea of what her limitations will be. To be honest, I wouldn’t have expected her to survive,” Dr. Komninos admitted, stacking rolls of gauze on the bedside table. “Saint Demetrios himself must be watching over her.”

“So she’ll live?”

Dr. Komninos sighed, thinking about the paperwork waiting for him back at his office. “If her fever breaks tonight, as I expect it will, then yes, I see no reason why she won’t live. As for what kind of life she’ll have”—he picked up his medical bag, forcing himself to look Theo in the eye—“it’s too early to say. But take it from me. In these types of situations, expectation usually leads to disappointment.” He pushed open the bedroom door. “I’ll be by first thing tomorrow to check in,” he said, descending the white stuccoed staircase.

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Why I love it

Sure, I’m a writer, but I’m first and foremost an avid reader, so I still get a little thrill when I receive a pre-publication glimpse of a wonderful book by a debut author. It means the literary world I love so much is about to get a bit brighter. That’s how I felt when I read Amita Parikh’s The Circus Train last spring, sobbing my way through the final chapters on a flight home. “Good book?” the woman sitting next to me inquired as she inched away, looking a bit terrified by my tears. “I loved it,” I gushed, still sniffling.

You’ll love The Circus Train, too. It combines the tantalizing magic and captivating illusion of a traveling circus with the heartbreak of war in a truly fascinating, original way. The icing on the cake (or the flag on the circus tent, if you will) is the powerful love story at this glittering novel’s heart. Lena is the precocious daughter of a renowned illusionist, whose world at first remains small, despite the fact that she lives on a glamorous circus train that crisscrosses Europe. But when a young Jewish refugee with a talent for magic finds his way aboard in the early years of the war, Lena’s life changes forever as he shows her that she alone holds the key to building a better existence for herself.

The perfectly-drawn characters and rich language shine in The Circus Train and had me enthralled. This story of hope, family, and great love, which deftly touches on issues of disability and prejudice, is an extraordinary debut.

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Member ratings (13,219)

  • Sarrah C.

    Oklahoma City , OK

    Oh my emotions!! This book was beyond words. You are transported and can not help but be moved by the emotions. The on character if I could reach in and punch them I would do it in a heartbeat. ❤️❤️❤️

  • Heather T.

    Las Vegas, NV

    “…one’s past did not dictate future possibilities, that she alone had the power to decide who she would become, & that if rationality and logic should ever fail her, she could always believe in magic”

  • Kimberly B.

    Humble, TX

    I loved the book. It was a great read. The only downside is I wasn’t feeling the relationship. It didn’t get enough attention. The “secret” also wasn’t that big of a deal. I would still recommend.

  • Julie B.

    Des Moines, IA

    Wow!!???? A well written story, packed full of details. The circus, the war, the love story, and the determination. Lena and Alexandre’ were fantastic to unfold. The characters were narrated perfectly????

  • Cortney F.

    Orangevale, CA

    I absolutely loved this book. It was so beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down. The author is so skilled in making you feel like you can “see” what is happening in the characters lives. 10/10!

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