SYNOPSIS: When Simon is randomly sent a book that has his grandmother’s name in it, he discovers that all the women in his family drown on July 24 even though they are all excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for a long time. When his sister spontaneously decides to come home and is acting stranger than usual, he is in a race against time to figure out why this happens and how to stop it.
This story is told in alternating segments of Simon in the present and of his ancestors in the past and the origins of the family curse. Unfortunately I found the story of the past to be far more interesting than the story of the present, but the present did have its moments. I liked how all the things from the past got connected in the present, but I had a hard time liking Simon and his sister, Enola. All the minor characters in the present seemed to have more interesting and richer lives than them. Enola and Simon felt stagnant and like they were waiting for things to happen. They just felt bland compared to their significant others Alice and Doyle, but I did appreciate their brother/sister dynamic because it felt real. I absolutely adored the story of the sideshow that started the family curse, though. It was cool to see how all these people from different walks of life come together and form a weird family. I loved Amos and everything about him was fascinating from his habit of disappearing and how even though he was mute he found a way to communicate with the people that he loves. Evangeline was also fascinating in how she carried her guilt and thought herself undeserving of a pure love. Even the fortune teller was interesting because of her connections to the idea of family and what it means to protect another person. I also loved how Peabody truly and genuinely cared about all the people in his sideshow, but at the same time money was obviously more important to him. It was an interesting juxtaposition and it made you wonder how deep his love went for Amos. I wanted the book to be more about the sideshow and less about Simon, but I did enjoy how all the pieces came together and how fascinating and magical the overall plot was.