Study Guide

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants Summary

Water for Elephants has two plots going on, both starring the same main character, Jacob. In one plot, Jacob is a young guy just starting out in the world; in the other, he's an old guy stuck at a nursing home. Every few chapters, the narrative switches from one Jacob to the other. Hmmm. This could get confusing. To make sure everything's clear, we're going to lay it all out for you separately. But be warned, this isn't the order of events in the book!

Jacob at the Circus

The prologue features a younger version of Jacob, who works at a circus and witnesses a murder. This is already bestseller material.

Just when it's getting exciting, we cut back to Jacob as a young man about to finish his degree at Cornell's veterinary school. Just before he finishes, though, his parents die in an accident and he finds out that he has no job or inheritance. (He was supposed to join his dad's vet practice.) So far, so terrible.

By a happy accident, he ends up getting connected with a circus traveling on a train: the Benzini Brothers, led by a ringmaster named Uncle Al. A friendly drunk named Camel helps get Jacob involved with the circus, taking care of the animals. Seems like a decent gig.

Or not. At the circus, Jacob has to work with a problematic man named August, who's in charge of the most important animal acts, and August's wife, the beautiful Marlena, who's one of the circus stars. Jacob and Marlena are attracted to each other – it wouldn't be a story without a love triangle – but she's off limits. Jacob also runs into a couple other interesting characters, most importantly his roomie, Walter.

The circus travels around and eventually acquires an elephant named Rosie. August has trouble training her and his violent tendencies bubble to the surface. Jacob is able to train Rosie, though, so he works with August to help get her to join the act. In the meantime, Jacob and Marlena's relationship grows stronger, and August becomes jealous.

Meanwhile, Camel becomes incredibly sick, and the group discovers he has jake poisoning, an illness all too common during the Prohibition. Camel can no longer work, which puts him in danger at the circus (that basically means death), so Jacob and Walter hide him and care for him. Nothing is going right for these people.

August becomes progressively more violent, while Marlena and Jacob fall more in love. August accuses them of adultery and beats them both pretty badly. Marlena leaves August, and she and Jacob become closer: they acknowledge their love and finally act on it. Both of their positions at the circus are threatened, especially when they learn that Marlena is pregnant. Scandalous! Plus, the circus is running out of money, which means it will probably kick people out of the group and to their death.

One night, Jacob attempts to kill August but chickens out. While he's off doing that, several people are thrown out of the circus – they are literally thrown off the train. Both Walter and Camel are killed, and Jacob knows he was a target, too. A few of the men who had been thrown out survive, and come back to start an animal riot during a performance. The circus is ruined, and [SPOILER ALERT!] during the ensuing catastrophe (which is discussed in the prologue), Rosie the elephant kills August. We're talking brutal murder here.

Marlena and Jacob are free. They save as many animals as they can (including precious Rosie) and decide to join the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Jacob at the Nursing Home

Jacob hates being at the nursing home. He has frightening encounters with nurses, who treat him like some old nut, and he can't stand the other residents of the home, who seem like old nuts to him. To pass the time, he thinks about his life in the circus. He tells us his story and shares part of it with a friendly nurse named Rosemary.

Jacob's son is supposed to visit him and take him to the circus, but he doesn't show up. Not coo, Jacob's son. So Jacob makes a break for it and goes to the circus alone. While he's there, he meets a guy named Charlie, who works for the circus and is refreshingly friendly and respectful.

Our guy tells Charlie his whole life story. He even goes on to explain what happened after the first narrative ended: he and Marlena had several kids, a good run at Ringling, and a fine life. But now that's all in the past.

Finally, even though people from the retirement home are looking for him, Jacob decides to stay with the circus and set out on another adventure.

  • Prologue

    • The narrator and some other circus folk are hanging out in the food joint while the show is on. Most of the audience is inside, watching.
    • A guy named Grady tells the narrator that he should be careful because a lot is at stake.
    • The narrator hears that it's almost time for his part in the show: the elephant act.
    • Suddenly, the regular circus music stops. When it starts again, "Stars and Stripes Forever" is playing. Grady immediately recognizes the song as the circus's secret code that something is wrong. Since these men are out in the food joint, they don't know yet what's happening.
    • Chaos ensues.
    • A guy named Diamond Joe comes by, calling the narrator Jacob, and saying that all the circus animals are loose.
    • Jacob springs into action, worried about two things: a girl named Marlena and the elephant. He heads to the animal tent and sees all these huge, dangerous animals loose and frantic. He sees some of them slipping into the big tent, where the audience is.
    • Jacob keeps looking, and then he sees her. At this point, we don't know who "she" is. He watches as she grabs a big iron stake and rams it through the head of a man who's been yelling at her.
    • Jacob can't do anything to stop it.
    • Then he pulls himself out of the memory. He tells us it's been seven decades since that whole ordeal took place, and he's kept the murder a secret the whole time.
  • Chapter 1

    • Now Jacob is in his 90s and living in a nursing home. This might be one of the oldest narrators we've ever had.
    • He thinks to himself about the messy problems of aging. He doesn't like being old.
    • Most of the other tenants in the home are women who mildly annoy him. It turns out he's there because he broke his hip. He gets out of his wheelchair and tries to walk down the hall with his walker, but it takes forever.
    • He makes it to the window, where he sees a circus tent being raised. This alarms him, and before he can help it, everyone is rushing to his aid, even though he doesn't want it.
    • Later, at dinner, Jacob is grossed out by the food. The nursing home doesn't serve what he considers to be real food, so he thinks about what he would really like to eat.
    • He listens to everyone at the table talk about the circus and how cool it looks.
    • The others at the table reminisce about circuses in the old days. One guy who's new to the home, Joseph McGuinty, claims that he "used to carry water for the elephants" (1.40).
    • This doesn't sit well with Jacob. He calls him a liar, and they both get really worked up.
    • One of the nurses, Rosemary, makes Jacob go back to his room. While they're in there, Jacob briefly tells her about his past with circuses.
    • Rosemary takes pity on him and gives him some fruit: mmm, real food. As Jacob eats it, he thinks about his dead wife and about the past. Well, this is depressing.
  • Chapter 2

    • We're back in the past. Jacob is in a veterinary school classroom at Cornell. The year is 1931, and a woman named Catherine Hale is taunting him.
    • Jacob thinks about how he's still a virgin, even though he's about to graduate. He seems kind of ashamed of this.
    • The class is interrupted by the Dean, who pulls Jacob away.
    • Our narrator is worried that he's in trouble, but it turns out to be much, much worse: both his parents have been killed.
    • Just like that, his whole world changes.
    • Jacob has to go back to his hometown and identify his parents' bodies. The sight makes him throw up.
    • As you might imagine, he feels super alone. He ends up heading back to his old house, where everything is still set up as though his parents are alive.
    • One more thing: Jacob was supposed to be joining his dad's veterinary practice after graduation. Guess that's not going to happen.
    • Jacob is consumed by grief, and people from the church come to take care of him.
    • Later, he finds out what was in the will. Unfortunately, times have been hard and his parents died with hardly any money saved. His dad was too generous with people who couldn't afford treatment. It turns out that his family home and the veterinary practice are about to be seized.
    • Jacob has nothing and no one in his life. Ugh.
    • To make matters worse, he blames himself for going to an expensive college.
    • Jacob goes back to school but is totally out of it. He's almost finished with his degree, but he can't concentrate. During the final exam, he gets really stressed out and walks out without finishing. (Don't try this at home.)
    • Jacob leaves Cornell and wanders, not knowing where he should go. He ends up in a forest somewhere. This should be interesting.
    • Soon he realizes he's near train tracks, and a big train is about to pass by. He races after the train, jumps, and against all odds falls into one of the train cars – but only after cutting himself and getting all scratched up. Hey, he's lucky he's even alive after that stunt.
    • On the train, Jacob finds himself in a room with four guys. One of them, Blackie, attacks Jacob and tries to push him off the train. Another, an older guy named Camel, jumps in to stop Blackie. He takes a second to evaluate Jacob.
    • Jacob won't admit too many details about himself, but Camel lets him stick around.
    • After a few niceties, Camel suggests that maybe Jacob can get a job with the people riding the train – it turns out they're all part of a huge circus, the Benzini Brothers.
  • Chapter 3

    • Jacob gets up the next day, still on the train, and Camel takes him to meet some guy named Crazy Joe. We wonder what this guy might be like. We'll take a wild stab at it and say crazy.
    • Once they're off the train, Camel and Jacob go through a big field where a bunch of people are working and majestic horses are passing through. They interact with a guy named Will, who doesn't seem to think Jacob has much of a chance of getting hired – or sticking around if he does. Thanks for the vote of confidence, dude.
    • Jacob is in awe as he sees men and horses working to bring the circus and big top stage to life. Everything is busy and exciting.
    • Joe takes one look at Jacob and hires him without saying anything (that's Crazy Joe for you). His first task is to empty out horse poop from a train car with a guy named Charlie. Hey, a job's a job.
    • They stop for lunch and head over to the main food station. At this point, more of the circus grounds are set up. Jacob realizes he's starving, so he eats and eats. Yum, circus food!
    • When he tries to pay for his meal (with a pass issued by Camel), he gets in trouble for not knowing where he belongs. Tough first day.
    • Camel takes care of it, though, when a guy named Ezra gives him a hard time.
    • Jacob still has a lot to learn about circus protocol, and he looks really out of place. He's curious about the circus artists, who Camel calls "kinkers," and who haven't shown up yet.
    • Then Camel gives Jacob a new assignment for the afternoon. He's going to work with Cecil, the announcer, and help get the audience into the tent. Sounds better than scooping up poop. So Jacob ends up working the sideshow.
    • The air is full of food smells (yum), and all the exotic animals are just out of reach in the menagerie.
    • The circus still isn't quite ready for the audience. While they're waiting, a guy named Wade tells Jacob to take a look at all the animals.
    • The menagerie (where the animals hang out) is huge and full of all kinds of exotic creatures.
    • But forget about the animals: Jacob sees a beautiful girl in costume and is instantly smitten. They have a moment of meaningful eye contact. (You know what that means…)
    • Then Jacob has to get back to work.
    • Jacob listens in amazement as Cecil springs into action, announcing all of the Big Top's treasures, like Lucinda the fat lady. Cecil explains that there's a men's only sideshow – the implication is it's very sexy. Ooh la la. And weird.
    • The audience disperses to watch the various entertainments. Some of them are pretty cheesy.
    • One customer gets mad and attacks Cecil, and Jacob rushes in and helps defend him. Already coming to the rescue, eh?
    • The excitement dies down, but all of this has made Cecil think pretty highly of Jacob. His position at the circus is now more secure. Score.
    • That night, Jacob finds himself guarding one of the sideshow acts: the naughty lady. Um…
    • He's supposed to maintain order in the audience while the lady, Barbara, does a sultry striptease. (Earmuffs for the little ones here). Miss Barbara bumps and grinds, and the audience gets excited. Jacob has the job of trying to keep everyone from getting too riled up. Good luck, Jacob.
    • The act ends when Barbara exposes her breasts and touches herself, to the audience's great appreciation. Yikes.
    • After the act, Cecil announces that Barbara is willing to have sex with a few of the audience members for the right price. (He says it more delicately than that, but we're giving it to you straight.) This is not Shmoop's kind of fun. Or the law's, for that matter.
    • Jacob, the virgin, is blown away by what he saw.
  • Chapter 4

    • Jacob's next job is to be the sentry (guard) while Barbara takes on her other job: being a prostitute. He has to listen outside while five men do their thing. Ugh.
    • Afterward, Barbara tells him to go away, so Jacob goes back to work with Cecil some more. (Relieved, much?)
    • As night falls, the circus is just finishing up. Jacob has a talk with Camel, who's in despair because he's aging out of the circus. He'd like to drink real booze, but Prohibition has limited his supply.
    • The two guys chat for a while as the show ends. They're pretty in tune with each other: Jacob realizes that Camel's unwell, and Camel realizes that there's a lot more to Jacob than the kid is letting on.
    • Camel tells Jacob he should go home if he can, but Jacob says he can't.
    • The show lets out, and Uncle Al, the ringmaster, passes them. Camel tries to get his attention, but it's no use. Camel is determined to try again later.
    • Just before he passes out drunk, Camel introduces Jacob to another guy named Earl. They all get back on the train, and Earl has to carry Camel on board. This guy's not in good shape.
    • Jacob has a hard time falling asleep in his new bed (on the train) – he's right smack dab in the middle of some other men he doesn't know. Doesn't sound too comfy.
    • In the middle of the night, Earl comes to get him and takes him to see Al.
    • Jacob realizes too late that Earl's plan is to present him as a lowlife who hopped on the train suddenly, rather than somebody who knows Camel. Earl roughs up Jacob and introduces him to Al.
    • The head honcho questions Jacob, who says he wants to get a job with the circus. He even praises the girl's horse performance, when in reality, he didn't see it.
    • Turns out the girl is Marlena: she has some connection to the man who's hanging out with Al, a guy names August.
    • The two men, Al and August, make fun of Jacob for being a mama's boy who's totally out of touch.
    • It seems like Al is really upset that the circus doesn't have any elephants. We would be, too. What's a circus without elephants?
    • They're impressed, though, when they find out that Jacob has been studying to be a vet at Cornell. They could really use a vet.
    • August wants to keep Jacob around because one of Marlena's horses isn't doing so well. Al says there's nowhere for Jacob to go, but August suggests he should go sleep with the horses, along with another circus guy, Kinko.
    • August takes Jacob to the new quarters – after an adventurous detour – and introduces him to Kinko. Immediately, Jacob and Kinko get off on the wrong foot. Uh oh.
    • Kinko, a dwarf, is not interested in getting to know Jacob. And August just makes it worse by praising Jacob and revealing that he doesn't like Kinko.
    • Oh, and Kinko's little dog doesn't like Jacob either. He just can't win.
    • That night, Jacob has uneasy dreams: his dead mother turns into Barbara, taking her clothes off at the circus. Wow, talk about disturbing.
  • Chapter 5

    • Jacob wakes up in the nursing home, back in his elderly shell. He tries to keep the nurse, Rosemary, from seeing that he was crying.
    • Our guy is totally crotchety, but the nurse pushes him to eat, saying that the circus will be in town the next day.
    • Jacob hangs out by the window so he can see the circus being constructed. It looks slicker than he remembers, but he doubts the artists are as good. He watches as the other people from the home go down to investigate.
    • Later that day, he's taken down to dinner. He throws a fit and refuses to be placed at his usual seat, with McGuinty there. Instead, he insists on sitting by himself.
    • He can hear the others talking about the circus and he gets super mad. He even picks a fight with one of the nurses, demanding a better meal than the gross stuff they've served him. Out of frustration, he pushes his food off the table. Man, this guy is not happy.
    • The doctors and nurses whisper about him: they think he's depressed and force him to take a new medication. Jacob doesn't want to take it, but he doesn't really have a choice.
    • Jacob is powerless and angry, and the medicine makes him weak and sleepy again.
  • Chapter 6

    • Now Jacob is back on the train, waking up as his younger self. He sees Kinko get up and take his little dog, Queenie, out for a pee.
    • Jacob gets his bearings. It looks like the circus tents have already started to go up in a new town.
    • Our guy realizes that he's at the absolute bottom of the circus totem pole. Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
    • Jacob meets up with August, who introduces him to Marlena. Ah, Marlena.
    • She recognizes him from the previous day and actually thinks she might know him from somewhere. Strange.
    • Finally, Marlena brings out the horse Jacob is supposed to look at, Silver Star. Jacob can immediately tell that the horse is in really bad shape.
    • Jacob examines Silver Star and gives his diagnosis: the horse's feet are in major trouble and it may be too late to do anything about it. They'll have to take very good care of the big guy, and even that might not be enough. Poor horse.
    • Marlena is horrified. But August and Uncle Al, who just rolled up, don't want to believe the horse is in such bad shape.
    • Uncle Al is up in arms because they need the horse for the show. He refuses to believe the horse will die, and, just like that, he officially hires Jacob.
    • Then he says it's time to pack up and keep going, even though they just got there. What?
    • It's going to take a while to get going again, though. At lunch, while they wait, everyone's buzzing about why the circus can't stay. (We're curious, too.) There's a lot of speculation, but no one knows for sure.
    • August insists that Jacob have lunch with him and Marlena. That's nice – sitting alone at lunch can be kind of a drag.
    • Another performer, Lottie, shows up and explains the history of the circus and why they have to move on so quickly.
    • According to Lottie, Al took over the circus through dishonorable means. He swooped in and bought part of it for nothing when the original Benzini Circus ran out of money a few years back. Al kept looking for circuses down on their luck and bought them up piece by piece. Sneaky.
    • Al likes to get new people for the sideshow, and he's just heard about someone in Joliet, a three-day trip from where they are now. The man, Charles Mansfield-Livingstone, has a tiny twin attached to his body. Now that is circus material.
    • So, Lottie explains, they have to bail on their show, even though they just got started and all of these supplies have arrived for them. (Apparently twin man is more important than all that.)
    • Plus, there's a huge audience waiting that's disappointed and getting mad, naturally.
    • After Lottie finishes her explanation, Jacob discovers that everyone's in an uproar. They may not have enough food for the journey and they're losing money. This isn't good.
    • August directs Jacob and Diamond Joe in getting the circus animals ready for the trip. They're really concerned that the animals won't have enough food for the journey, so August and Jacob strategize about supplies.
    • At this point, Jacob feels dirty and knows he could use a bath, so he throws an old pail of water over himself (you take what you can get, right?). August sees this and says that the circus will steal some clothes for him; then he shows him another pail of water that he should use. The water's got a name on it, Walter, but August says Jacob can go ahead and use it.
    • Jacob heads back to his sleeping quarters on the train. But first he checks on Silver Star, who still doesn't look good.
    • Back in his quarters, he discovers he has a new shirt to wear and puts it on. All dressed, he starts investigating Kinko's book collection. The books are all classics that hide cartoon pornography inside. Classy.
    • Kinko comes in and is super mad that Jacob is going through his belongings. They argue, and Jacob discovers that Kinko is Walter. Uh oh. Their relationship is even worse than before.
    • Much to the chagrin of the would-be spectators in Saratoga Springs, the circus leaves. Jacob checks on the horses one more time before going to bed.
    • The next day, Jacob is awoken when the train stops abruptly. Kinko and his dog get off the train while Jacob tries to figure out what's going on.
    • At that point, he meets up with August and they feed the animals. Unfamiliar with protocol, Jacob oversteps his bounds and August gets mad. This is becoming a pattern…
    • August makes Jacob feed the great cats, starting with the lion. Jacob has to go into the cage (!) where the lion bites him. Luckily the lion doesn't have teeth, so it's not fatal, but it still hurts like heck. Jacob is furious at August, who's acting like it was a prank.
    • Jacob storms off to regain his composure and clean himself up. Then he runs into Diamond Joe, who warns Jacob to watch out for August, who's a dangerous guy. (The whole lion-bite prank tipped us off to that one.)
    • Jacob goes back to the horses and encounters Marlena. They realize the horse is getting worse, and they're both sad.
    • Marlena notices Jacob's lion bite, but before he can explain it, the train gets going. Marlena stays with Silver Star while Jacob helps get everything ready to go.
    • That night, the train pauses again. Jacob is trying to avoid Kinko, but they have to interact when an invitation is delivered to their room. Jacob has been asked to have a meal with August and his wife.
  • Chapter 7

    • Jacob goes to August's part of the train for dinner and meets Marlena there. So yes: Marlena is August's wife. Bummer.
    • August isn't there yet when Jacob arrives, so Jacob and Marlena get to have some private time. No one's complaining, especially because Marlena's room is much nicer than Jacob's.
    • They talk about drinking, and then she apologizes on August's behalf for the lion incident. Nice lady.
    • Just then, they're interrupted as August arrives.
    • August and Marlena encourage Jacob to dress up in a formal suit they've prepared for him. They fool around while he gets dressed.
    • Then the three of them have a formal and fancy sit-down dinner. They eat and drink and generally have a great time. (On a train!)
    • August seems like a different person for a while – charming and fun. He talks about his past with Marlena and how they both came to the circus.
    • Things change quickly, when he starts making out with Marlena and falling down drunk. Marlena has to care for him briefly, but then she comes to sit with Jacob.
    • Marlena tries to explain August's temperament but has a hard time. He's a scary and complex guy. Plus, August is Jewish and Jacob is Polish, so there's some potential prejudice going on, too.
    • Jacob and Marlena talk briefly about their cultural backgrounds. Thrilling stuff.
    • Marlena says that both August and Uncle Al are glad Jacob has joined the circus – they really needed a vet. But Jacob doesn't buy it: he still thinks they both dislike him.
    • The next day, Jacob wakes up in August and Marlena's place and kind of has to do a walk of shame back to his own area. He's still wearing his clothes from the night before.
    • Back at his room, Jacob walks in on Kinko masturbating. (No sock on the door, people?) Kinko is furious and embarrassed and forces Jacob out, so Jacob goes to work with a guy named Otis.
    • They're supposed to clean the camels' car. This would be fine, except the camels have been traveling with the meat, which has totally rotted. Jacob's stomach can't handle it and he can't stop throwing up. Otis throws up, too, but is able to pull himself together and get out of the car.
    • After that little adventure, Jacob goes to check on Silver Star. Marlena is there and they agree that the horse isn't going to make it. They're going to have to put him out of his misery.
    • Marlena cries. So do we, a little.
    • Jacob goes to get August and explains that they have to kill the horse. August protests, saying Uncle Al will be pissed, but Jacob tells him there's nothing they can do about it.
    • They part ways, Jacob puts on normal clothes, and then they go get poor Silver Star.
    • First they have to wait while the other horses are led away. August goes to tell Al and be with Marlena.
    • Jacob takes his time, trying to be respectful and considerate, and then he kills the poor horse with one shot.
    • Everyone is devastated as the horse is taken away.
    • August comes back and says he's fixed things with Al. He tells Jacob to take credit for being a vet, and he explains that the circus is full of exaggerations and fakery. What a world.
    • And as if the horse's death weren't enough, August implies that they used Silver Star's body to feed other animals in the menagerie.
  • Chapter 8

    • Jacob finds himself pulling out of sleep and back into his aging body at the nursing home. He has a minor fight with the nurse, Rosemary, who he usually likes. She ends up treating him with more respect than usual, so it seems like he's made his point. She actually starts to ask his permission before doing things.
    • Rosemary reminds him that his family is coming to visit and that he'll be seeing the circus later that day. Sounds good to us.
    • As Rosemary helps him shower, Jacob thinks about how embarrassing it is to be old. He wishes for privacy and finally gets it. Almost as an aside, he reveals that he's had five kids. (Later, their names are given: Simon, Ruth, Peter, Joseph, and Dinah.)
    • Jacob thinks about his wife, whom he loved and misses, and about how his children are the ones who manipulated him into staying at the home in the first place.
    • He feels betrayed but also realizes that his kids have had their own problems. They're difficult, but one of them visits him like clockwork, once a week. The visits are painful and bland.
    • Jacob longs to be young again.
    • Rosemary interrupts his thoughts, bringing him breakfast. She's included some cream, which is a forbidden treat. Jacob is grateful and she leaves him alone to snack. When she's gone, he gets sad about how old he looks: he feels like he's lost his identity, trapped in this old body.
    • He's not hungry anymore, so he lies down and looks out the window.
  • Chapter 9

    • Back to the past. Jacob is on the circus train. It's three days later and the circus has arrived in Joliet.
    • Everyone is weirded out by the empty, abandoned circus they discover there. It makes them super uncomfortable.
    • Al swings into action mode while August leads Jacob into town to find some food. It seems like everyone's going to be hungry for a while.
    • Marlena meets them and they have breakfast, but the lady is upset and leaves in a huff. Turns out she's upset about how they disposed of Silver Star.
    • To top it off, August is rude to the people at the restaurant.
    • Jacob goes back to the train and watches the sad spectacle of people from the other circus trying to audition for Al. Most of them don't make it.
    • Then Al instructs his men to take whatever they can from the other circus. The law seems to be looking the other way.
    • Jacob is worried about some of the horses not having enough food or water. August is unreasonable about what they're expected to do, and the two of them, along with horse handler Pete, have an argument. Seriously, what's with all the fighting?
    • Finally, the Benzini circus's food arrives, and everyone is relieved. Jacob is glad they can feed the animals some real food.
    • In a really cool moment, Jacob has an amazing encounter with an orangutan – he's actually able to communicate with it.
    • Later, August invites Jacob for a drink and forbids him from checking on the animals from the other circus. This really upsets Jacob, who thinks it's inhumane. August explains that he has to obey, because that's how Benzini does business. If Jacob interferes, he'll get into trouble with Al. Jacob is upset but eventually follows orders, even though he feels terrible about it.
    • That night, they have dinner. A few more people have joined the circus – all big top talent, not behind-the-scenes folk. While they eat, they're surrounded by hungry people from the other circus, who can't have any of their food. Well, that's not very nice.
    • Marlena and August actually have a huge fight (surprise, surprise) because she wants to share her food with them. Finally, she just does it and then leaves in anger. August is too angry to eat after that, and Jacob loses his appetite, too.
    • The next day, Jacob tries to help Kinko by telling him what's wrong with his little dog, Queenie, and how to fix it.
    • It's super hot and Jacob is worried about the animals, both the Benzinis' and the others'. He can't do anything about the others', so he visits the Benzini animals. They're all in bad shape. Then, he realizes that the big cats haven't eaten yet.
    • Jacob heads off to find August and ask him about it. Marlena's there, too, and they're arguing. Wow, this is getting a little too predictable.
    • Then Al arrives with some big news. Instead of the guy with the twin attached to his body, they've scored an elephant of their very own. He thinks Marlena should ride the elephant, which would be a huge hit. The elephant is named Rosie and is fifty-six years old.
    • Other people are there, too, and Al leads everyone in a toast. He couldn't be happier.
    • August, Marlena, and Jacob are dazed. When Al and his train of folk leave, the other three gear themselves up to see what they've gotten into.
    • They go visit the other animals. Jacob is overwhelmed by Rosie: she's huge and beautiful. She waves her trunk at them. This must be an amazing sight.
    • Her former caretaker appears and announces that Rosie is terrible to work with and barely has any training. He uses a torturous tool called a bull hook to make her obey. Then the caretaker departs, leaving them with their new animal. Let the adventure begin.
  • Chapter 10

    • August leaves, and Jacob and Marlena stay to try to get to know Rosie. She seems pretty nice. (Yes, we're talking about an elephant here.)
    • The two humans dance for a brief moment before Marlena stops them, and they go back to her part of the train.
    • August comes in and he's furious: Al paid way too much for the elephant, in his opinion, and they don't know what to do with her. Plus, Al hired more people with nowhere to put them, so everyone's going to have to crunch, and morale will be low.
    • Demoralized, they all drink a huge amount of whiskey. (Not the best coping mechanism, we'd say.)
    • Drunk, Jacob makes his way back to his room. On his way, he passes two people getting hot and heavy outside. When he gets to his car, Kinko is hosting a large, raucous party. Jacob is invited to join, and the drinking only gets worse.
    • Jacob is hammered when two women, Barbara and Nell, come over to and start hitting on him. They take him somewhere else and start undressing him and touching him. Things are getting pretty intense when Jacob throws up all over everything. Wow, way to ruin the moment (although we're kind of glad he did).
    • The next day, Jacob wakes up hurting. Kinko comes to get him – August is looking for him. Turns out, Jacob has been dressed up like a clown and shoved into a big chest. Plus, someone shaved off all his hair (down there). Talk about a circus prank. He's super embarrassed and has to leave the room looking very strange.
    • Jacob heads back to his room and can't stop thinking about how ashamed he is. He doesn't remember all the details, but he knows he made a fool of himself.
    • Kinko comes in, lectures him, and tells him to make it up to Barbara.
    • Jacob pulls himself together, despite a brutal hangover, and goes to find August.
    • August is in a pissy mood. He's trying to get Rosie to do stuff, but she won't obey. Pete comes in and August tells him to "take care of" the cat meat. (We readers don't know what that means yet.) Pete is reluctant, so August takes him away to discuss it and leaves Jacob with Rosie.
    • Jacob puts aside the weapon August was using and just pets Rosie. Now that's how you deal with an animal. They have a great moment, and then August comes back. It's very clear that Rosie doesn't like August.
    • August tells Jacob to go find Marlena and keep her away from the animal area.
    • Before he does so, Jacob discovers that there's a group of horses there that Pete has to slaughter – that's what will be feeding the cats.
    • It's graphic and terrible.
    • Jacob goes to Marlena. She's upset and tells him that August is trying to make Rosie move onto their train by beating the poor elephant. Finally, Rosie sees her own car and gets in, to everyone's relief.
  • Chapter 11

    • They're on the train again, going somewhere new. Jacob is lost in thought in his own car, and Kinko tries to reach out to him. Kinko sort of apologizes and even makes a peace offering of a book. Jacob turns it down, but they seem to be on better footing. Kinko says Jacob can start using his real name (Walter).
    • The train's next stop is Chicago. Jacob is excited to be in such a famous place for the first time. That is, until they travel through an area of slaughterhouses. Jacob can't stand it. He has to console himself by going to visit the circus animals and trying to forget about the ones being slaughtered. This has got to be rough, especially for a vet.
    • Jacob realizes that as long as these animals need care, he has to stick with the circus: that's what his father would have wanted.
    • Jacob embraces one of the chimps, Bobo, and then goes to treat a giraffe with a stuffy nose. He's not quite sure what to do for the giraffe but does his best.
    • Then Jacob asks one of the guys there, Otis, to hold down the fort while he runs an errand. He promises to come back. Hmm, what's he up to?
    • Jacob heads into town and finds a church where he can pray for a while. He feels unworthy.
    • As he's leaving, he sees Marlena. He desires her (to put it lightly), which makes him feel even more unworthy.
    • Jacob heads back to the circus and visits Rosie, but when August appears and Rosie gets upset. Man, this guy really has a way with elephants.
    • August apologizes to Jacob and says that he and Marlena want to treat Jacob to a meal that night. The circus isn't performing, because they're in town early.
    • Jacob is conflicted about going, but he does. Marlena looks amazing and August gives him something to wear.
    • The three take a cab into town and end up at a secret club, where they can dance and drink. (Remember, it's Prohibition, so alcohol is illegal.) Jacob is still recovering from all the alcohol he had the previous night, though.
    • Marlena and August dance first, and then it's Jacob's turn. While he's dancing with Marlena, he feels absolutely overwhelmed.
    • August is pissed.
    • Chaos ensues as police descend on the place – they all have to scram. Marlena and Jacob stick together as they try to get out. They make it, but they lose August. Uh oh.
    • Marlena is practically hysterical. Jacob kisses her (!), maybe to calm her down. The kiss is great, but then they both regret it. Marlena runs away.
    • Jacob walks back to the circus by himself. As he wanders, he sees how hard Chicago has been hit by the Depression.
    • Jacob visits Rosie, and then he heads to bed. Not before he gets lost in thought, of course: he's worried he'll get in trouble for kissing Marlena. Duh.
    • The next day Walter (Kinko) makes Jacob get up. They sure seem to be getting along better than they were before.
    • At breakfast, Walter realizes that Jacob has a thing for Marlena. He tries to warn him that it's not a good idea – August could kill him. Literally.
    • Jacob plays dumb, then goes to sit with the August and Marlena. He can't tell if August knows about the kiss and if he considers him a new rival. The plot thickens.
  • Chapter 12

    • Jacob retreats to the animal area and goes back to work.
    • August is upset because Al wants Rosie to do more in the performance, but she's just not ready. Al is too ambitious for his own good: he wants to be like the Ringling Brothers.
    • Here's the thing: Rosie won't march with the other animals. In the end, the men have to cart her over to meet the rest of the animals. But when she's put on display, everyone loves her.
    • Jacob is convinced something is up – Rosie should be trainable. Hmm.
    • And now for something completely different: August and Al have a huge fight. The end result is that Rosie will to have to perform in the circus that day – with Marlena – even though they haven't practiced at all. This is dangerous business.
    • Marlena goes for it. It's absolutely terrifying to watch.
    • She rides Rosie into the tent while August makes Rosie obey by hurting her. Ugh.
    • The performance isn't going very well, although the audience seems to like it. Finally Rosie has had it and races out of the tent. Marlena manages to cling to part of the tent's structure, and she does some fancy flips before jumping down.
    • As far as the audience can tell, everything is great, but Marlena is badly injured.
    • August and Jacob run to her rescue and take her over to Barbara's area to tend to her. Barbara knows what to do and orders Jacob to bring them some ice.
    • Jacob runs into Al and explains what happened. Al sends him to get Rosie, who ran away after the act: she's in someone's garden in the village. Yikes.
    • Two other circus guys show up to calm the garden owner down. One of them, Greg, speaks Polish and knows a little bit about elephant care. He gives Rosie some gin and she has no problem obeying him after that. They don't even need the weapon. Aha.
    • Jacob goes back and peeks into Barbara's tent, but Marlena isn't there. Barbara mocks him gently.
    • Then, Jacob discovers that August is going to punish Rosie for what happened. August is determined, that's for sure. What a jerk.
    • Jacob is really upset that he can't help Rosie. He goes back to his room and tells Walter what happened.
    • When Walter leaves, Jacob can't stop thinking about Rosie and Marlena. He feels like a coward because he can't protect either of them. This is just sad.
    • Jacob's roomies returns tells him about Marlena's diagnosis: she hurt her heels, but she'll recover. Phew.
    • The two men, now friends, it seems, talk about Marlena and August.
  • Chapter 13

    • Jacob is back in the nursing home again. A nurse is annoying him (surprise surprise). He wants to try to walk, but she says he should use the wheelchair.
    • She leaves him at a nearby window and refuses to hand him his walking aid. And in more shocking news, they argue.
    • Finally, his favorite nurse, Rosemary, intercedes and insists that he get the aid. The other nurse is upset.
    • Jacob looks out the window at the circus. He compares it to the ones he used to know.
    • A few hours later, Rosemary comes to get him: it's time to eat.
    • He wants to eat by himself rather than having to listen to McGuinty talk. (This is sounding familiar.) But Rosemary insists he have the company and encourages him to let McGuinty think whatever he wants to.
    • Jacob struggles but makes it through the lunch.
  • Chapter 14

    • Nearly a week passes. Jacob hasn't seen Marlena and has barely seen August.
    • Rosie, too, is having a tough time: August has been brutal to her and she's not getting trained any better. This isn't good.
    • One evening, Jacob and Walter are hanging out when Earl comes to ask for Jacob's help: Camel isn't doing well, and Earl doesn't know what to do.
    • Jacob says they should try to get a doctor; he's just a vet. But Earl says the circus won't take care of Camel like that. (After what happened to the horses, are you surprised?)
    • So Jacob goes to see what he can do. It turns out Camel is having problems moving his body – he's actually kind of numb. Not good.
    • Jacob wants to stay with Camel and take care of him, but Earl insists that he can't. So they leave Camel for the time being and make their way back to their own places. On the way, Earl shoves Jacob out of the car. Um?
    • Back in his own room, Jacob tells Walter about Camel. Walter is able to diagnose the problem immediately: Camel's been drinking a kind of alcohol called jake. (Since it's Prohibition, he can't get anything else.) Walter heard that some of the jake got contaminated, and it's making the people who drink it lose feeling and motor control.
    • This can't be good.
    • Walter says Camel isn't going to make it, but Jacob still wants to get a doctor.
    • Jacob is definitely worried, and as he agonizes, he has a flashback to Camel asking him if he wanted a drink when they first met. Luckily, he turned it down.
    • Time passes, and the train arrives in Dubuque. They're supposed to get paid, but money is tight, so some people aren't receiving their paychecks.
    • Walter explains that this is how Al operates and that at a certain point he'll just kick people out of the circus if he doesn't have money to pay them. (Not a great operation he has going on.)
    • Jacob doesn't get paid when he asks for it, so he has no money to give the doctor.
    • But our guy really wants to help Camel, so he seeks out other solutions.
    • He goes to find Marlena and August. Things are awkward between them, but finally Marlena promises that Jacob can borrow the next doctor who comes to visit her. Done.
    • After that, things at the circus get worse. A day passes, and we find out that Al had six people kicked off the train during the night because he didn't have money to pay them. Yikes.
    • People are blaming the lack of money on Rosie. Poor elephant!
    • Jacob is worried that Camel got kicked off the train, too, but luckily he was saved by another guy named Grady.
    • A doctor comes to see Marlena and Jacob goes to get him. The doctor isn't really interested in treating Camel but immediately diagnoses him with "Jamaica ginger paralysis" (14.204). It's definitely from drinking the jake, just as Walter suspected. Prohibition really took its toll.
    • The doctor is disdainful, barely acknowledges Camel, and says there's no treatment. Then he leaves.
    • Jacob reveals that just for that measly visit, he had to give the guy his dad's beloved watch. The other circus folk are crushed, especially Camel.
    • Jacob goes to find Walter and asks him if they can take Camel in for a while to protect him. To Jacob's surprise, Walter agrees, but he says they have to be careful and that they need a plan.
    • Later that day, Marlena stops by and asks Jacob to come talk with her. She doesn't see Camel, who's already hiding with them.
    • While they're chatting, he discovers that Marlena thought he had some kind of STD or got someone in trouble or something. Huh?
    • When that's cleared up, they talk about their kiss. They're both conflicted and don't know what they should do. This is getting racy.
  • Chapter 15

    • The circus presses on, while Jacob and Walter keep taking care of Camel and trying to keep him safe. Camel's health is quickly deteriorating.
    • One night, Walter feels so bad for Camel that he shares some alcohol with him.
    • Time passes, and every so often the circus stops to give a show before moving on.
    • Jacob misses spending time with Marlena. And to be honest, we miss their romance!
    • Walter tracks down some of Camel's family members. The plan is to get Camel out of the circus, saving his life and putting an end to their careful watch of him.
    • Before that happens, the circus's fat lady, Lucinda, dies. Al turns her funeral into a big production in Terre Haute, where the circus is currently performing. The funeral becomes a hugely successful marketing tactic, and the audience is practically the largest Jacob has ever seen. That's the circus for you.
    • That evening, Jacob is inspired to watch Marlena's performance in the Big Top. He is amazed by her routine, which involves directing ten horses in a beautiful display.
    • Jacob is more into her than ever before. Ooh la la.
    • After the show ends, Jacob pays a secret visit to Marlena's horses.
    • The following day, Jacob has another awkward breakfast with Marlena and August. During their conversation, Jacob reveals that he didn't tell the truth when he first joined the circus: he wasn't originally inspired by Marlena's act.
    • As he comes clean, Jacob becomes really angry and starts yelling at everybody. This is unexpected. And surprisingly, instead of arguing, August thinks it's all hilarious.
    • Time passes, and Al keeps looking for a new fat lady. This gets the circus into trouble in one town and they have to get out rather unexpectedly.
    • Walter can't find his dog, Queenie, so he almost doesn't go with the circus train. Jacob and Camel have to convince him, and Jacob actually has to physically put Walter on the train. After this, Walter seems heartbroken.
    • Walter reveals that his own mother sold him to the circus. He seems miserable. Poor Walter, what a story.
    • Then Camel finds out that Walter and Jacob have made arrangements for him to go back and live with his son. So, yeah, everyone's super upset that night.
    • The next day, Marlena visits their train car, and she has Queenie with her. Yay!
    • She and August found the dog before the train pulled out and August got her in the nick of time. Walter is overjoyed. (But don't worry, Walter is still not a fan of August.)
    • The circus keeps traveling, and the summer weather gets more and more oppressive. At one of their stops, someone steals lemonade from the circus. This upsets everyone, including the workers, who are blamed for it.
    • At another stop, in Columbus, Jacob meets with Marlena and August to talk about a horse. Al comes in, livid, and says that Rosie is the one who's been stealing the lemonade. (We think this is hilarious.)
    • Al is pretty scary when he's mad. He's definitely going to make August and Marlena pay.
    • August, in turn, is furious and goes out to punish Rosie. Marlena tries to stop him and he shoves her. Hard. Not cool at all.
    • Jacob wants to stop him, too, but Marlena says there's no point. She cries, and our knight-in-shining-circus-garb comforts her.
  • Chapter 16

    • Jacob is back in the nursing home. The nurse, Rosemary, says he's been talking, but he doesn't know what he's been saying.
    • Our old friend is uncomfortable, and then sad. He worries about holding on to his mind and his sense of self.
    • Rosemary goes in search of the doctor while Jacob tries to relax. He thinks about how he's becoming more forgetful. His whole family seems alien to him.
    • He tries to remember what he was talking about with Rosemary, and has even more trouble. Poor guy.
  • Chapter 17

    • Back in the past, Jacob listens as Marlena reveals how she got involved with the circus and with August to begin with. We're psyched to hear this, actually.
    • When Marlena was a teenager, her family tried to marry her off. Then one day, she went to the circus and somehow fell under August's spell. After just a few more meetings, August had convinced her to marry him, and Al had pushed her to join the circus. And the rest is (sad) history.
    • Marlena finishes her story and cries. They're both incredibly sad because they want to be together, but know that it's not possible.
    • Jacob then finds out that August has beat Rosie brutally.
    • He goes back to his quarters and talks with Walter and Camel about how much August sucks. Agreed.
    • Jacob gets Camel some food and Walter gets him some liquor. Jacob asks permission to take the liquor to someone "female" (17.65). Interesting. Camel doesn't like the idea, but Walter agrees.
    • It turns out Jacob wants to take the liquor to Rosie, to apologize for not being able to protect her from August. Nothing that a little apology present can't fix.
    • He goes to find Rosie and sees that Greg (remember him?) is taking care of her. Jacob hangs out with them for a while and then has an epiphany: Rosie understands Polish. That means they'll be able to train her after all. Awesome.
    • Jacob exuberantly embraces Greg and they arrange for Rosie to have the liquor. Celebration!
    • After that, everything changes. Jacob helps August start training Rosie using Polish. With the new technique, August seems like a different person – sweet to Rosie and Marlena. Jacob doesn't really know what to make of this, except he sure doesn't trust August.
    • At the same time, Jacob worries that maybe he's just let his jealousy affect the way he thinks of August. (Nah, we don't trust him either, Jake.)
    • The circus keeps traveling, as it does. Jacob visits a priest and tries to get absolution for his adulterous thoughts, but it doesn't seem to work very well.
    • He, Walter, and Camel seem to be drifting apart. Camel is becoming more and more of a burden, and Jacob's relationship with Walter is strained. Friendship is tough.
    • Rosie is finally ready to perform in the Big Top, which makes Al incredibly happy.
    • August brings Jacob and Marlena together for a little speech where he praises them and Rosie and puts a positive spin on everything that's happened so far. In a way, August is rewriting history.
    • Then he gives each of them a gift: Marlena gets a diamond necklace and Jacob a watch to replace his old one. Wow, this seems unusually generous.
    • Marlena has even created a special headdress for Rosie to wear in the act.
    • Jacob tries to pretend that August and Marlena aren't married or in love, but it's getting harder and harder.
    • That night, the circus performs to a full house. Jacob and August watch Marlena and Rosie perform together for the first time.
    • The two ladies waltz together and do tricks (normal circus stuff, like standing on balls). They crowd eats it up.
    • The act is pretty funny, actually, and it's a screaming success.
  • Chapter 18

    • Jacob goes to meet Rosie, Marlena, and August after the act. August leaves Marlena and Jacob alone for a moment and Jacob accidentally goes on too much about how great it was to watch her do her thing.
    • The two have an intimate moment and – oops – Jacob notices that August seems to be aware of it. Marlena, not realizing that her husband is listening, asks Jacob to bring Rosie to meet her later.
    • Jacob brings Rosie around and they wait for Marlena. While he's waiting, he talks with two guys, Grady and Bill, about how Camel's doing.
    • Rosie messes around and the men and elephant tease each other a little. They talk about Walter.
    • Grady reveals that being in the war affected Camel. He also adds that the circus might be making money again. Nice.
    • Grady helps get Rosie set up in Marlena's tent, and Jacob gives her a watermelon. He figures out he should probably dress for dinner.
    • Later, Marlena sets up a beautiful meal for the three of them – herself, Jacob, and August – plus Rosie. Jacob is impressed and Rosie's happy. Everything seems to be going okay.
    • August comes in, but instead of taking the event for what it is – a merry gathering to toast the success of the act – he suspects Marlena and Jacob of having an affair. He's crass, scary, and seemingly on the verge of violence. He refuses to believe their denials and continues to accuse them of adultery. This can't end well.
    • August smashes a bunch of stuff and totally ruins their dinner.
    • Rosie is frightened and pees in her non-existent pants – poor girl.
    • August accuses Marlena of pretending to take extra time to make Rosie a fancy new headdress as an excuse to cover up her affair with Jacob. (Which, we know, just isn't true.)
    • August curses and tears the headdress apart. He attacks Marlena, then Jacob attacks him.
    • Jacob and August fight violently until they are separated by onlookers. Then some of the circus guys restrain Jacob, who is powerless as August attacks Marlena. This is just awful.
    • Walter makes Jacob leave, and the two guys go to see Camel.
    • Jacob is in bad shape and Walter cares for him. He drinks and explains what happened: how August lost it and attacked Marlena.
    • Walter isn't confident that August didn't have a reason for attacking Jacob.
    • Camel tries to help, but they make him hide. Walter takes care of Jacob and guards him: he's worried some of the other circus folk are going to come after them. After a while, it seems like they're going to be okay, so they're able to rest.
    • Later, someone comes in, and Walter's ready to defend them all. But it turns out to be Marlena, who is pretty beat up herself.
    • Camel and Walter want Jacob and Marlena to have some space, so the couple goes to hang out with the horses. Jacob and Marlena are getting closer and closer and Marlena says she won't stay married to August after this. We'd sure hope not.
    • They comfort each other, and…sigh.
  • Chapter 19

    • Back in the present, Rosemary is waking Jacob up.
    • She helps him get dressed up to go to the circus. He's so excited that he gets ready an hour early.
    • Unfortunately, this means he's stuck with an old lady named Ipphy who has dementia and thinks he, Jacob, is her husband. She won't let go of the idea and it freaks Jacob out.
    • Ipphy seems sorry about committing adultery.
    • One by one, the other residents get picked up to go to the circus.
    • Finally, Jacob is the last one waiting.
    • Rosemary offers to look into why no one has picked him up yet. Jacob waits, furious.
    • It turns out that Jacob's family isn't coming, which means he can't go to the circus. This is one of the most depressing scenes ever.
    • Jacob is sad, naturally, and so is Rosemary: she can't even help him because she has to work. It turns out that she's not going to be working at the old folks' home much longer.
    • She's Jacob's only ally and friend there, and Jacob is totally distraught.
    • He asks to be left by himself and Rosemary leaves him be.
  • Chapter 20

    • It's the day after the horrible fight with August. Jacob watches as Marlena gets Earl to help her move out of August's place. August is apologizing every which way he can, but Marlena ignores him.
    • August pleads and begs and then starts yelling.
    • Marlena moves away from him, and Jacob goes with her. They go into the town, where they try to check Marlena into a hotel. The guy working there won't help them because he doesn't think they're married (which, of course, is true). He finally relents after finding out that they work at the circus, but Jacob's done with the place.
    • They go to another hotel and have better luck. Jacob walks Marlena to her room and drops her off, even though he wants to stay. What a gentleman.
    • Jacob goes back to work and is called into a meeting with Al. Al just wants to keep the circus going and maybe get Marlena and August back together (which would help).
    • He wants to know if Marlena and Jacob are a thing, but Jacob is kind of upset by the whole conversation.
    • Al tries to explain that August has a mental illness. He wants Jacob to back off so Marlena and August can be together.
    • Jacob's not interested, but Al implies that if Jacob doesn't help him out, he'll take it out on Walter and Camel. Whoa now.
    • Then Jacob heads off to take care of Rosie. While he's there, August comes in to apologize. He's actually pretty beat up, too.
    • Jacob doesn't want to forgive August and refuses to answer his questions about Marlena.
    • Finally, August leaves. But on his way out, he throws his cigarette at Rosie and burns her. Man, this guy's just plain old mean.
    • Jacob panics, afraid that August is going to seek out Marlena. He cautiously makes his way to the hotel to warn her. The guy working there tries to stop him, but Jacob manages to get in. He finds out that August was already there, but luckily Marlena's still safe.
    • Marlena explains some of August's violent history: he's done terrible things and she's been trapped with him.
    • Then, one thing leads to another. They have amazing sex, share secrets, and feel completely safe.
    • Jacob is falling more and more in love with her.
  • Chapter 21

    • Marlena wakes up (she's in bed with Jacob, remember). It's lunchtime and she has to be back at the circus in time for the next show.
    • She and Jacob confess their love for each other (um, duh!). They decide the only way to be together is to run away, which they'll do after Camel is safe. These really are some loyal friends.
    • Marlena is shocked to learn that Uncle Al kills people by having them pushed off the train. Walter and Camel could be in danger, and so could she and Jacob, for that matter.
    • Back at the circus, Jacob tells Walter the plan. Walter is pissed off and feels completely abandoned. He thinks Jacob is being stupid, even when Jacob invites him to come along.
    • Jacob goes back to work, and later on, he (reluctantly) meets with Al. He lies and says that Marlena might agree to get back together with August. Al is really pleased, and they drink to the idea.
    • Jacob talks a good talk about a plan for slowly bringing Marlena and August back together. That'll give him and Marlena time to plot their escape. Luckily, Al seems to buy it. There's a real sense of danger in the air, though.
    • The fight between Marlena and August has changed what the circus can do. August can't perform, which means Rosie can't, which means that the audience is disappointed. It takes a long time for August to heal, which means Rosie stays out of the spotlight.
    • August is supposed to stay away from Marlena, but eventually he assaults her (yet again). Jacob complains to Al, and August is temporarily held off.
    • Meanwhile, Jacob pines for Marlena. They have three brief encounters, but it's not enough to satisfy him.
    • One night, he has a terrible nightmare about trying to rescue Queenie and being surrounded by dangerous animals.
    • The circus keeps on keepin' on. At one stop, all their alcohol is confiscated by the police. At another, people are angry because there's no fat lady. The circus loses money and has to travel fast.
    • More and more people are denied their paychecks: the circus has hit a new low.
    • Jacob and Walter are even more worried about Camel, and Walter's also worried about himself, and what will happen if they leave. Walter's options are limited.
    • Jacob meets Marlena for lunch, still trying to figure out a solution. But they've got another, bigger problem – Marlena is pregnant. Gasp!
    • Here's where it gets ugly. Al summons Jacob and says time's up; he's going to let August have Marlena back.
    • Jacob yells and protests but he can't do anything. Al's muscle guy, Earl, forces Jacob out.
    • That evening, Jacob is told to stay away from the show. Marlena and Rosie will be performing together. Marlena tells Jacob she'll be okay, and he hides. This is getting suspenseful.
    • While he's hiding, Jacob catches a peeping Tom. This forces him out of hiding and he sees that Rosie's not doing a good job in the act. There's nothing he can do to help, though.
    • Rosie ends the act abruptly by running out of the tent. Poor girl. August follows her and beats her, and when Marlena follows to try to protect Rosie, August grabs Marlena.
    • Jacob tries to intercede, but a guy named Blackie prevents him. Jacob has to watch helplessly. He struggles to help her but is beat over the head and loses consciousness.
  • Chapter 22

    • Jacob wakes up to find himself in his quarters on the train, where Walter is taking care of him.
    • He's worried about Marlena.
    • Jacob is in pretty bad shape, even worse than when August beat him up.
    • Our guy wants to help Marlena, but Walter says they've got to lie low. Soon they can deliver Camel to his family and then worry about themselves again.
    • Then Jacob drops the bomb, and tells Walter that Marlena is pregnant.
    • Finally, Jacob accepts that Walter is right and they need to wait it out. Patience, Jacob, patience.
    • Or not. When Walter and Camel are sleeping, Jacob grabs a weapon and sneaks out across the train.
    • He's still in bad shape from the beating, and it's dangerous to cross the train the way he does, but he perseveres. He's holding a blade in his mouth. (This is straight out of an action movie, we love it.)
    • Finally, Jacob gets to his destination and it's revealed to the reader that he has a plan to murder someone. WHOA.
    • He finds August asleep and alone, but he chickens out. He leaves the weapon behind and makes the long, arduous trek back to his quarters.
    • But when he arrives, it's empty. Camel and Walter are gone. Queenie's there and she's really upset.
    • Jacob is devastated. He realizes that he left Walter and Camel behind, defenseless. He tries to imagine a way to make things better and hopes against hope that Walter and Camel are okay.
    • He begins to plot his revenge.
    • Jacob is furious. He finds Earl and accuses him of hurting Walter and Camel, but Earl denies it. Actually, it seems like Earl is just as upset as Jacob is.
    • Earl says he'll look into it and warns Jacob that he's in terrible danger. (No kidding, Earl.)
    • Later, Jacob finds out that ten people were forced off the train that night. Jacob feels like Walter may have suffered extra because they were friends. How awful.
    • Jacob wants to find Marlena. He has a strange moment of eye contact with Al and he can tell that Al is shocked to see him.
    • Finally, Jacob finds Marlena without August: our man and our lady have both been worried about each other.
    • Jacob wants to escape ASAP, but Marlena wants to wait: they need cash. Jacob says he'll take care of it.
    • At that point, Earl has to separate them. Nobody except Jacob and Marlena realize that Earl is on their side.
    • Jacob waits out the day, and that night, the circus performs. Jacob is lurking around and sees Rosie get set up by August.
    • Then Grady comes up and steals Jacob away. Over burgers (no big deal), Grady lets Jacob know that Walter and Camel didn't make it. They both died when they were thrown off the train, according to the guys who survived and made it back.
    • We'll give you a sec to go grab a tissue.
    • Grady tells Jacob that a bunch of them are going to get revenge on Al. It's also clear that Jacob and Marlena haven't been able to keep their secret from anyone.
    • All of the sudden, the circus band makes a strange noise and starts playing "Stars and Stripes Forever." Sound familiar? That's because this is what we saw in the Prologue. It's all coming full circle.
    • Jacob runs to the area where the animals are and sees that they're all running around like crazy. (This sure is sounding like a dream he had.)
    • It's super dangerous. The animals get into the main tent and the audience freaks out.
    • Jacob realizes that the people seeking revenge on Al have caused the animals to storm the circus.
    • Jacob finds Marlena and Rosie, who are with August.
    • Then – are you sitting down? – he watches, stupefied, as Rosie uses her stake to murder August. She just slices it through the top of his head and then puts it back, like it was nothing.
    • Wow.
    • More animals run in, separating Jacob from the others. They trample August: if he wasn't dead before, he's really dead now.
    • Marlena faints, but Rosie protects her until the other animals calm down. Sweetest elephant ever. Oh, except for the brutal murder she just committed.
    • In all the craziness, nobody realizes what has happened. Eventually, the audience gets away from the circus and most of the animals do, too.
    • Jacob is able to get Marlena out. Phew.
  • Chapter 23

    • The circus folk are slowly starting to bring the animals back in: one lion made it all the way into town. August is dead and Al is M.I.A.
    • The circus has turned into the kind of derelict place Al used to scavenge. In a reversal of roles, other circuses come in to pick it over.
    • Jacob isn't sure what he and Marlena should do. He gathers his courage and telephones the man in charge of Cornell's vet school. He spills his guts and gets permission to finish up his degree. That was conveniently easy.
    • Jacob goes back to the circus in the nick of time to save Rosie from the circus vultures. He claims that Rosie isn't any good at being a circus animal.
    • Rosie shows just how smart she is by not following commands. It works: the other circus people decide they don't want her. Phew again.
    • Then Marlena has to defend her animals. She manages to protect her eleven beautiful horses, but Jacob realizes that their family has suddenly become incredibly big and they have nowhere to go.
    • He gets in touch with the man from Cornell again: the elephant is going to be a problem. (Really?)
    • He finds Marlena and they commiserate. But Marlena has an idea: they will apply to join the best circus there is, the Ringling Brothers (who, by the way, you can still go see!).
    • They have an awkward conversation and decide to get married. How… romantic?
    • Marlena looks into joining Ringling, and Jacob learns that Al was murdered, grotesquely.
    • And to top off their already animal-friendly family, Marlena and Jacob adopt a chimp, Bobo.
  • Chapter 24

    • Jacob is back in his old body. He is unhappy that his son, Simon, didn't come to take him to the circus. We learn that Simon is the baby Marlena was pregnant with when she and Jacob got married. Jacob reveals that Simon is his son, not August's.
    • Jacob then decides that, as old as he is, he can make it to the circus by himself. He painstakingly takes himself out of the home and over to the circus. It takes forever but no one tries to stop him.
    • When he finally gets to the circus, the person taking tickets won't let him in. Luckily, a more mature man comes along and gets Jacob inside. Jacob reveals that he used to work in the circus, and the man is super impressed. He asks Jacob to meet up with him later that night.
  • Chapter 25

    • That night, Jacob hangs out with the man, Charlie, and tells him his life story. Jacob says that it's the first time he's told someone how August died: the fact that Rosie killed August was the one thing he always kept from Marlena.
    • Jacob gives a rundown of his life: he and Marlena stayed with Ringling and then he ended up working at a zoo. They had a wonderful time, but it went by too fast. Now here he is. Wow, that's sad.
    • Charlie is a great audience for this story, but they are interrupted by a policeman who's looking for Jacob.
    • To Jacob's surprise, Charlie covers for him, claiming that Jacob is his father. They manage to fool the cop and Jacob decides he wants to stay with the circus. Charlie thinks about it, and agrees.
    • Finally, Jacob is happy again.