First Impression: I find this story really interesting. Gruen gives great perspective to the reader by switching between Jacob at 90 (or 93) and at 23. I'm curious as well about her research and historical accuracy--life in the circus, interactions of Polish vs. Jewish people, etc. I know some of what's going to happen from the prologue, but I'm also curious about how Jacob gets from that place to his elderly life. Happily married with five kids, and did he ever get a veterinary practice? Some of her numbers seem to be off on the timeline of his life. The book starts off a bit sad, but I'm really enjoying it now.
Conclusion: This is a great book. Gruen has fantastic writing style, well-developed characters, and meaningful action--everything you can ask for to really enjoy what you are reading. The timeline makes more sense when you find out what happened after the stampede. The author had it well planned-out and purposely gave tidbits once in a while, so I didn't know the complete story until the end. There were times where I was incredibly frustrated by what was happening, but it helped me to feel closer to my characters and drew me in. And did I mention that I loved Rosie? What a great sense of humor and honor in one unexpected character! I was particularly fascinated by the parts about Jacob as an elderly man. There aren't a lot of books written from the perspective of someone living in a nursing home who doesn't actually need special food and attention. There also aren't a lot of books set in the early days of circuses, so this book is quite the unique find. I'll definitely read more by Gruen in the future.
Recommendation: If you have a penchant for slightly quirky but intricate, unique book ideas, this is a good book for you. There also seems to be validity to Gruen's research, so if you're interested in circus life in the train days, this might be a good read for you, as well.