Circus of the Queens: The Fortune Teller's FateCircus of the Queens: The Fortune Teller’s Fate by Audrey Berger Welz
My rating: 5/5 cats
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”It’s what one does with the hand they are dealt that makes the difference.” This stuck with me, like all good clichés do, because of its element of truth.

this is a deceptively chewy-dense piece of historical fiction. the writing is delivered with a light touch; it’s not the type of historical fiction that’s all dry facts and details and dates, but it’s languidly paced and demands that you proceed slowly, deliberately, savoring the developments as you would the segments of an orange.

which speaks to both how the book is structured – as a series of sequential, self-contained vignettes cohering into a larger narrative, and to one of the themes contained within – of patience and serenity; taking life’s challenges in stride.

it begins in st. petersburg with a girl named donatalia, whose young life is blessed with wealth and a loving family, with promise and opportunities and dreams of becoming a dancer like her mother. but fate diverts her plans, and when she is a young woman, her father sends her to the safe haven of america as the russian revolution begins to tear their country apart.

without the safety net she’d taken for granted, donatalia finds herself on her own in a new country, with all of her dreams shattered. however, being forced to give up those dreams opens her life up to alternative paths; not the road less traveled, but the road not even considered, and what follows is a story of friendship and chosen families, romance, adventure, tragedy, and a little magic.

although set primarily in a vibrant circus atmosphere, it’s characterized by a very reflective mode of storytelling, as donatalia (now donatella) makes her way through the world, adjusting her goals, taking what comes and facing life’s setbacks with grace.

it’s pitch-perfect storytelling: a strong cast of characters, vivid descriptions, and a richness of mood balancing life’s ups and downs, and the flexibility to accept and adjust accordingly.

also, elephants.

like in life, some questions are left unresolved, but it is a very satisfying, full novel that’ll stick with you in your soft feely bits.


i was recently invited to a book reading at the home of this author, which – note to authors – is a totally classy thing to do, especially if your snacks are on point. i am going to read this book ASAP because it looks tremendous, and the excerpts she read were lovely. also, she’s a medical badass and you should support her career just in case she’s some kind of demigoddess:…

put it on your radar.

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  1. Avatar

    April Davila

    August 16, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    You had me at “also, elephants.”
    Also – tell me more about this reading she did at her home. I just sold my debut novel – coming out spring of 2020 (woohoo!) – and was struck by your comment. Was it a reading just for book reviewers? And what WERE the on point snacks?

    • karen t. brissette

      karen t. brissette

      August 17, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      it was a “friends and family” reading. i was working at a bookstore at the time and she had come in to sign stock and we got to talking and she invited me – she didn’t know i reviewed books or anything, it was just a nice gesture on her part. the snacks were many and various – people brought stuff and she provided stuff, and it was everything from cheese and crackers and veggies to a homemade sheet cake to what was – for me – the star – some excellent guac. i hogged that guac.

      i brought a potted orchid, which was not even a little bit edible.

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