The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson: A Novel

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Cecily Larson is born into a troubled life through no fault of her own. Her father, a wealthy man who will not claim her as his own, has left her young mother, Madeline. Madeline believes she has a second shot at a future with a new man who doesn’t want to raise her child, but she feels certain she will change his mind. She leaves four year old Cecily at an orphanage, promising to return for her, but this becomes the first of many abandonments Cecily will face in Ellen Baker’s The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson.Three years later a traveling circus arrives at the orphanage and takes Cecily on the road to perform as a bareback rider. Cecily hopes she has found a way to search for her mother. They travel from town to town and she searches everywhere, finally giving up hope when she reaches the age of fifteen. Her life with the circus is filled with excitement and exhaustion, performance, and pain, and when she meets a handsome young man, she hopes her future will take a new direction.

This story is told alongside the story of Cecily in her 90s recovering from a fall. It is in this timeline, in 2015, that her hidden life becomes known. Her family learns, through her grandson’s school project on DNA, exactly who she is and the circuitous nature of a life they never knew she had lived. A third story line, involving another family, is introduced about 130 pages into the novel.

While there is a great deal of beautiful writing and surprising turns in the book, Cecily’s life is more compelling than anything else that happens, so it’s a shame to see so little of it happen in real time.

Reviewed By:

Author Ellen Baker
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 384 pages
Publisher HarperCollins
Publish Date 20-Feb-2024
ISBN 9780063351196 Buy this Book
Issue March 2024
Category Popular Fiction