Little Tessa Riley is a tiny, diminutive twelve-year-old girl who barely stands four feet tall. She was born with hands the size of small plums and fingers like star fish. She is far too small to help on the family farm harvesting potatoes and corn. Tessa can't even hold one large potato with both hands. Her mother, father, sister, and two brothers, all think she is a freak. They call her mean and cruel names like: munchkin, tramp, and black-haired Jezebel. Her mother forces Tessa to hang from a curtain rod for hours on end in the hope it will somehow stretch her body so she'll be less of a freak.
Her father is a loud, gigantic man who likes to Lord his power over those who are weaker than he is. Her meek mother runs around clutching rosary beads but isn't Catholic and spends each evening bent over the table reading her Bible.
Tessa had heard there was a new librarian in town who seemed to have a strange affect on the men, including her own father. After lunch one day, Tessa decided to climb down from her stretching rod and run her way to town in the hope of seeing the woman without getting caught by her father.
Sitting on the front steps of the Oakley, Kansas City library, Tessa was trying to decide whether she should go inside or not. She looked up and there was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen and the woman was staring right at her! The woman had striking blue eyes, brown freckled skin, and long, black, wavy, shiny, hair. Mary Finn the librarian turned her cat like eyes on Tessa and invited her inside the library with her. Tessa was thrilled. Once inside, Tessa thought Mary smelled of: "...the spices my mother baked oranges in." Her wrists were adorned with jingly bracelets and she wore a long flowing skirt.
Mary chatted with Tessa for a bit and Tessa was so endeared to Mary that she ended up spilling her guts about her terrible home life and body stretching. Mary felt so sad for Tessa and made her a special blend of her tea and promised to teach her how to read and write. Before she left that day, Mary had taught Tessa how to spell her name. Tessa watched various women come into the library in disguise to talk secretly to Tessa about their various problems. Tessa would read the Tarot cards and send them home with a little cloth bag filled with special herbs and spices. The woman believed she was witch with special powers. When Tessa left the library that day, Mary was beside herself with worry what her father would do if he found out that Mary had been there.
The following day, Mary told Tessa that she used to be part of of a circus which made Tessa's eyes go wide. She was part of the "Velasqueze Circus" from Mexico, and they were famous! This new news only endeared Tessa all the more to Mary, especially when she learned that Mary flew on the trapeze!!
That evening in bed Tessa was bursting at the seams just dying to share this new knowledge with someone. As she lay in her bed she decided to confide in her sister, Geraldine, after making her promise that she would tell no one. Geraldine was totally excited as she knew who the "Velasqueze Circus" was because they had come to Kansas City the previous year. Geraldine told Tessa that she thought Mary looked like a Princess. Tessa replied that she did too and wanted to be just like her! Geraldine began a cruel laugh, a horrible guffaw, telling Tessa that she could never be like Mary Finn because she was far too ugly and a freak. Feelings of shame enveloped little Tessa and she hid under her bed covers for the rest of the night listening to Geraldine still snorting in laughter.
Mary and Tessa became fast friends well into Tessa's teenage years. They shared their joys, their sorrows and secrets until a terrible tragedy occurred changing the course of Tessa's life forever as she runs off to join the circus!
You simply won't believe what happens to little Tessa Riley from Oakley, Kansas once she finds the circus. A world filled with wonder and awe like following the yellow brick road. This debut novel is simply a masterpiece.
May 6, 2011