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339 pages, Hardcover
First published June 23, 2015
I fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova. The National Archives were lacking in ship manifests pre-1800, but allowed me to track bibliographies that led to the New York Public Library’s archives and manifests from 1600 on...
This book consists of two stories, one present and one past.Half of me loved this book. The past story was engaging, with interesting characters and an other-worldly, mystical feel. It made me want to learn to read Tarot cards, and normally I'm not a person who even believes in them, which is a testament to how convincing and integral to the story the author made the fortune-telling seem. I felt deeply for Amos and Evangeline. Madame Ryzhkova's possessiveness and spitefulness rang true. And I wanted to give treats to Sugar Nip, the tiny horse Amos bonds with. These characters were alive and felt real, and are what kept me reading this book.
In the present, Simon is paralyzed with loss. His mother committed suicide when he was seven, his father died ten years later, and his younger sister has left home to be a fortune-teller in a traveling carnival. Lost and lonely, with no direction or desires, Simon moulders away by himself in a house that is falling apart around him. Then a far-off bookseller sends him a mysterious book -- a collection of accounts and sketches covering 200 years -- because Simon's grandmother is mentioned in it.
In the past, a mute boy named Amos is taken in by a traveling circus as a Wild Boy who can disappear into his surroundings. He learns to read the Tarot from his mentor, Madame Ryzhkova, and falls in love with Evangeline, a beautiful "mermaid" who can hold her breath for many minutes, greatly impressing the crowds.
A curse seems to have followed Simon's maternal family down the centuries, and seems to be connected to the book he's been sent -- a book which mentions Amos and Madame Ryzhkova. Can he determine the source of the curse, and end it before tragedy occurs again?