Marvelous Lives of Circus Performers Blurs the Lines of Reality

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Circus Home by Jason Ollander-Krane

What’s it About?

A look into the lives of a variety of circus and carnival performers, whose stories reveal the common human experiences of love, loss and heartbreak.

You’ve heard the old expression that the clown is smiling on the outside but crying on the inside?

Step right up and enter a world of illusion and grandeur, where the lines between reality and fiction blur.

In his debut novel Circus Home: A Novel of Life, Love and New Jersey, Jason Ollander-Krane takes readers back in time to witness the lives of a variety of circus and carnival performers. While these novelty characters may seem a bit eccentric at first glance, a deeper look into their lives reveals the common human experiences of love, loss and heartbreak.

Maybe show folk are called to entertain not out of personal weakness — as people say often — but because, for us, show business is a ministry. A ministry of distraction that helps people move from the callous world into the make-believe one just to survive.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The story begins in the New Jersey Home for Retired Carnival and Circus Performers where Brendan Hardy has lived for the past two years. Brendan is a retired carnival barker — you know, the man who tries to lure you into this tent or that tent, yelling about the novelty or beauty of the attraction and how “you’ve never seen anything like this before, folks!”

Brendan loves to talk; he has a way of talking that makes other people listen, then talk themselves. Combine his talent for talking and listening with his love of the dramatic, and Brendan is the perfect narrator to tell the stories of his fellow residents. He starts by just sitting down and talking with each resident, organically learning his or her stories and eventually writing them down. Then, he puts up a flyer in the home’s day room: “Tell Me the Story of Your Life!” and the stories flood in.

I thought I could take these people’s dull lives and uninspiring existences and pump them up with my personal nitrous oxide to make them amusing, compelling, and interesting. However, in real life, my genius is hardly needed.

Pull Back the Curtain

The stories unfold in a series of flashbacks ranging from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century across the United States — from the bustling theater districts of NYC to Jim Crow Mississippi to a wagon train bound for San Francisco.

The characters range from novelty acts to skilled performers to mundane workers.

Experience the unlikely love story that leads a Russian mail-order bride and a western cowboy to become circus security agents. Witness a clown on the run, whose ambition grows dangerously out of hand. Behold the simultaneous trauma and miracle that shapes a young elephant tamer’s life. Marvel at Houdini’s final act through the eyes of a young magician-in-training. Wonder at how the liberating feminism found along a dusty, westbound trail leads to the birth of Siamese twins.

These are just a few of the characters you’ll meet. All their stories go beyond the “barker version” — what’s meant to awe and tantalize, to draw the crowd into the tent — and reveal the more personal side of the characters’ lives.

In the end, their lives collide at the retirement home in a gut-wrenching twist.

Unique Style & Vivid Detail

Ollander-Krane grew up in a theatrical home: His father conducted the pit orchestra for musicals and his mother was a theatrical costume designer. It’s no wonder his debut novel uses the world of entertainment as the backdrop.

The author creates an imaginative world unlike any other. He combines laugh-out-loud humor, fantastical drama and heart-wrenching tragedy to paint the perfect picture of the human experience. He does all this while using unique structural styles that play off the theater and other performing arts: titling chapters as acts, entr’actes and codas, embedding magazine and newspaper articles, and framing dialogue as a script.

Ollander-Krane also adds a layer of depth and realism to the stories through his use of strong attention to detail that really sets the scene and draws the reader into the time and place. This effect is enhanced further by his subtle inclusion of historically accurate facts and events.

Circus Home will definitely leave you wondering — what’s real? But as Ollander-Krane astutely points out, there are two kinds of people in the world: those that try to figure out how the magic trick works, and those that simply enjoy it. Maybe we should all be the second kind — those that make magic glow “like a tent all lit up in the moonlight.” Wouldn’t that be nice?


About Jason Ollander-Krane:

Jason Ollander-Krane grew up in a home filled with performers. His father was a composer and a conductor, and his mother was a costume designer.  He was starstruck at the age of five when he met John Raitt after a performance of Carousel. Byeight he was performing The Music Man in his grandparents’ living room. At the age of ten he got his first professional theater job building sets at the Tent House Theater in Highland Park, IL. He studied English Literature at Rutgers College, worked as an actor in New York City and is a published poet. He avidly attends theater, cabaret and music performances all over the world. He lives with his husband in California.

Circus Home by Jason Ollander-Krane

Publish Date: 10/19/2022

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction

Author: Jason Ollander-Krane

Page Count: 320 pages

ISBN: 9798986830810​​

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