The house on Long Island Sound is deteriorating but librarian Simon Watson can neither afford to repair it or bear to sell it. Memories of his deceased parents linger and it’s the only home to which his wayward sister Enola might someday return. Simon’s thoughts are consumed with this dilemma when he receives an old, damaged book, apparently a record of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, with fanciful stories of wild boys, tarot card readers, and mermaids. Exploring the book, Simon discovers an unsettling connection to his ancestors. Erika Swyler’s debut novel moves gracefully between Simon’s worries about the house, his sister, and his own future and the carnival’s adventures, mishaps, and tragedies. A sense of foreboding infuses both stories as July 24, a date with an ominous history in Simon’s family, edges closer. The novel is a delicious mix of the mystical and practical and, while often bleak and tense, the story is filled with life and love, too.