July 26, 2004 12:00 PM

By Cathy Day

Unlike most circus books, Cathy Day’s first novel, The Circus in Winter, unfolds not on the midway but along the permeable border between circus people and their small-town fans. In a high-wire act with few missteps, Day spans four generations to tell the story of Lima, Ind., the winter quarters of a major circus. The book is a three-ring extravaganza of characters and narrative styles, but Day, who grew up in such a town, never lets the glamor of the Big Top overshadow the steadying ballast of Main Street.

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