Simon Watson, a librarian, is the stable one in his family, or so it seems. His sister, Enola, is a tarot card reader who travels with carnivals, as did their mother. Simon has always taken care of Enola, from working after school as a teenager to feed and clothe them both, to driving through the night to rescue her from one situation or another. But then a strange book shows up on Simon’s doorstep, and his life begins to crumble. He loses his job, his house begins sliding down the cliff it’s perched on, and he becomes obsessed with the history of his family put forth in the book. Afraid that his sister will drown herself as have all the other women in his family, he frantically researches the past, desperately hoping to prevent a deluge of misery.
The strengths of this book lie in the ebbs and flows of the two stories: one the traveling carnival of the past, and one Simon’s present. The characterizations both of the people and of the bodies of water they are connected and drawn to are striking. The strangeness of the carnival settings is engaging as well. Those who enjoyed Water for Elephants or The Night Circus would also enjoy The Book of Speculation.