Library Journal Review
Nine-year-old Lilly Blackwood has spent her entire life in the attic of her parents' house. Her mother, a religious fanatic, views Lilly as an "abomination." Her seemingly loving father gives her presents yet keeps her imprisoned. Lilly cannot understand why she is hidden away until one day in 1931 when her mother sells her to a traveling circus. The homesick child, an albino, is violently beaten and forced into the sideshow. Yet among the circus folk, she will find kindness and even love. Twenty-five years later, 18-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited the family home and horse farm, having run away from her cold controlling mother in the wake of her alcoholic father's death. Blackwood Manor had always been full of secrets and locked rooms. Now Julia will discover the depths of her family's cruelty. Switching back and forth in time and narration from Lilly to Julia, Wiseman (The Plum Tree) has crafted a can't-put-it-down novel of family secrets involving two young girls who only seek to be loved. VERDICT Perfect for book clubs and readers who admired Sara Gruen's Like Water for Elephants.-Catherine Coyne, Mansfield P.L., MA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Wiseman alternates between 1930s and 1950s New York State in this emotional tale of one young girl's tragedy and another's coming of age. At Blackwood Manor Horse Farm in 1930s New York, nine-year-old Lilly Blackwood bemoans the fact that her mother won't let her out of her attic room. She wants to visit the local circus, which she can see with her telescope. Instead, her mother sells her to the circus because of Lilly's albinism. The narrative jumps ahead to the 1950s, when 18-year-old runaway Julia Blackwood learns that she has inherited Blackwood Manor in the wake of her parents' death. Back in the 1930s, as Lilly grows up in the circus, she makes friends with some other members of the troupe. And in the 1950s, as Julia learns how to run the horse farm, she tries to uncover the secret of the manor's attic room and the old pictures of a mysterious girl who was a member of a circus. Wiseman has created two equally enticing story lines that gradually reveal the commonalities between them. This well-crafted novel provides rewards throughout. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Lilly Blackwood has spent all of her nine years locked in an attic room at Blackwood Manor Horse Farm because, as her mother tells her, she is an abomination. When the traveling Barlow Brothers' Circus pitches its tents nearby, Momma marches her over and sells her to Merrick, the sideshow manager. It turns out Lilly isn't a monster after all she is an albino and quite beautiful. Despite abuse at the hands of the sadistic Merrick, she finds a home of sorts among the circus folk, and her affinity with the elephants eventually provides a ticket out of the sideshow and into the ring. Some 25 years later (it's the 1950s by now), runaway Julia Blackwood goes back home when she learns that she is the horse farm's new owner, and her explorations of the old house yield clues that lead her to Lilly's story and discoveries about her own identity. Her budding romance with a veterinarian echoes Lilly's with a worker in the circus menagerie. Deficiencies in character development and prose style are outweighed by Wiseman's ability to craft a vivid scene and draw readers in.--Quinn, Mary Ellen Copyright 2017 Booklist