The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill, 389 pages
Orphans Pierrot and Rose are brought together as children by their odd dispositions and innate talents for performing, dreaming of one day creating a traveling show of their own. But as things for orphans in the 1920s often go, they are torn apart, with little chance of meeting again. By the time they do, more than a decade later, Pierrot has gone from living in the lap of luxury to being a heroin addict, while Rose went from being the mistress of a mafia boss to performing in pornographic films.
O'Neill tells the story in such a romantic, melancholy way that it comes across less like a novel and more like an antique music box that's been bewitched to create a seedy story of crime. It's haunting and sad and somehow beautiful, all at once. While it was perhaps a bit more risque than I was anticipating — particularly for a book that features so many forlorn clowns and an invisible bear — I loved it.