His life changes as he finds put that his parents were in dept paying his tuition bills and that the bank was going to take away his father’s practice. When Jacob realizes that he is all alone with no home he jumps a train, not knowing were its going. As it turns out that it was a circus train. And his new life begins. The chapters in the book switch through the ninety year old and 20 year old perspective. On the circus train he meets the love of his life Marlena, a performer in the circus. The two of them share a love for animals and bond over their friendship that evolves into a relationship.
The main problem is that Marlena is married with Jacobs’s boss, August. The two of them fight against their love in the beginning, but circumstances bring them together to the point where they cannot deny how much they want to be together. August is a man with a split personality. He is categorized as schizophrenic. When he is in a good mood, August is generous person giving gifts to his favorite people, making them feel appreciated and adored. But when August does not feel good about himself, he is violent. He becomes irrational and paranoid.
He is alternately charming and brutal, both to the humans and animals aboard the Benzini Brothers train. He beats up Marlena throughout the book. He is also abusive towards the animals he trains, denying their emotions. At a point in the book when Jacob is tired of the abusive attitude August has, he takes Walter's knife and sneaks out of the stable car. Jacob makes his way through the train to Augusts’ room. Jacob finds August asleep and alone. Jacob wants to kill him but cannot bring himself to do so. Jacob leaves the knife on Augusts’ pillow and sneaks back to his own room.
This is the moment Jake almost loses sight of who really is, but he realizes it was the wrong thing and turns away from the bitterness. August eventually gets what he deserves when Queenie, the elephant at the circus that August abuses, kills him. After having an affair with Marlena, Jacob discovers that she is pregnant. The young parents wanting to the best thing for their family try to get away. Uncle Al is another important character. Uncle Al, the violent and abusive owner of the circus, is a symbol more than a character. Al represents “misguided humanity”.
He is only after power and money, he has no heart. He takes advantage of other people’s misfortune. He is known for redlighting circus workers; having them thrown off the moving circus train in the middle of the night to avoid paying them, in which he hopes that they die or are severely injured. He is an antagonist along with August. I feel kind of bad for August he is the head animal trainer and he was abusive and deserve what he got. But he did have a mental illness he was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I don’t think that he should be completely blamed for his actions.
This fits into the hero archetype because Jacob is the protagonists. He faces protagonist like Uncle Al and August. He is alone at first and he is faced with great loss. He travels with the circus not knowing where he is headed. He stands up to August who abuses Marlena and the animals. He takes care of Jake and protects him from being redlighted when he gets sick with. He is very intelligent and this helps him throughout the book. He faces a quest to stand for what he believes in without losing sight of who he really is. He fights for his love and gives Marlena a home.
He does the right thing by going back to Cornell to get his degree and give a better life to Marlena. He is the hero because he helps people, stands up for what he believes in and does the right thing. I liked the cyclic ending. The ninety year old Jacob finds his home, at last. He goes to see the circus that’s in town and meets with the manager Charlie. He begs him to accompany the circus by selling tickets. Charlie eventually agrees and Jacob believes he has finally come home. The best years of his life even with the downturns were at the circus where he met his wife. I think this was a peaceful ending to a great book.