For readers of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus, a lush and thrilling romantic fable about two lovers set against the scandalous burlesques, midnight seances, and aerial ballets of the 1898 Omaha World's Fair. On the eve of the World's Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, is unsure how the fair's events will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his purpose shifts, and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair. One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway's Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine, playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, transforms everything when the fair's magic begins to take its effect.
Timothy Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska and now lives in Omaha. He is the author of four previous novels. Schaffert teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.