Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi

elephant

(ECW Press, 2015)

A memoir pick by Jean-Louis

The appeal of this book is really irresistible: first there is a circus, then there are elephants, plus lions and tigers and sharks and llamas and puppies, and then there is a grand love affair played out across Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia, and the United States. Yes the book has it all, come one come all–under the big top, everything is possible, everything is revealed!

Okay, I got carried away there for a minute and turned into a carnival barker. What this book delivers is a peak under the tent into the lives of a young American woman and an Italian man who are adrift in Europe but find love and home in the circus. Along the way the two of them learn about the glamour and the cruelties of circus life, and the dangers of falling in and out of love with circus workers and the animals they care for.

Cremonesi does a great job of weaving her own love story with Stefano, an Italian in charge of the elefanti, alongside her larger initiation to circus life. During her time with the circus, Kathleen will learn to dance, usher guests, prepare meals for the exotic animals, ride an ostrich through the big top, and swim in a shark tank. More treacherous still is navigating her own love for Stefano, getting to know his parents, and the expectations of cross-cultural love affair.

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