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The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson - a moving dual-timeline family drama.

In 1924, Cecily was four years old. Her mother's boyfriend did not want her around, so she was dropped off at an orphanage in Chicago where children are unscrupulously sold. By the time Cecily is seven, the owner of a traveling circus pays the orphanage to have her come work for him. The plan is to train her as a bareback horse rider doing flips and other dangerous tricks. Having such a young performer was sure to create added appeal for the circus. Initially, Cecily is enjoying being a part of the circus as she finally has a substitute family. Once she becomes a teenager, Cecily falls in love with a boy who helps with the horses, but their love is forbidden. When the story shifts to 2015, Cecily is 94 and in failing health. Liz, her widowed daughter travels to Minnesota to be with her mother. When Cecily's granddaughter Molly's son Caden plans to research his family tree through DNA testing, a big secret is on its way to being exposed. Concurrently, another woman and her children are struggling with identity and trauma. They too take DNA tests to try and heal age-old wounds.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson by Ellen Baker. What a sweeping and satisfying read! The years when Cecily was living and working in the circus were so well done. I was riveted. Cecily's resilience saw her through terrible, cruel times. My heart was heavy throughout all the challenges Cecily went through. The book brings to light some despicable activities of the earlier time period. There's a lot going on in this book with many characters and subplots so take the time to sort it all out. It's worth the journey.

Many thanks to Mariner Books for the opportunity to read this wonderful book in advance.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Historical Fiction | Contemporary Fiction.

Publication Date: February 20, 2024.

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