Today Book Bug’s World is thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for “Love in the Elephant Tent” by Kathleen Cremonesi!
• PROLOGUE •
“Come,” he said, reaching for my hand as we ducked under the wall of canvas. Sunlight penetrated the white roof of the elephant tent, illuminating the interior with a warm, peaceful glow. Down the line of swinging trunks and bobbing heads, animals shifted their weight from foot to foot, swaying rhythmically as if dream-marching in place. I inhaled the musky animal scent and felt far away from the chaotic realm of the traveling circus. The tip of an elephant trunk, pink and moist as a pig’s snout, appeared in front of my eyes. With the finger-like protrusion on the end of her trunk, the elephant studied me. She inhaled, and it felt like someone turned a vacuum cleaner on in my face. She exhaled. Wet fermented air whooshed past me. Her trunk brushed over my ear and tickled its way along my neck, leaving a wake of goosebumps. I giggled and stepped into her touch. The elephant sniffed my clothing, paused at my waist, and then continued on to my shoes before swinging her trunk away.
Stefano, the handsome Italian elephant keeper I’d met just hours earlier, towed me along as he worked his way down the line greeting each animal in a deep, gentle voice. “Ciao, Raya. Hello, Mary. You been good girl today, Lola? And how about you, Gooli? Hola, Bambi. Yes, and hello to you too, Kama. How my beautiful girls are doing?”A flap of pink-edged ears, a tractor-like grumble, a mousy squeal, the lowering of a knobby head — each of the six animals returned his greeting in her own way. The troupe of Asian elephants loosely filled one long side of the tent; their presence overwhelmed the entire space.
I stood wide-eyed, transfixed by their swaying. “Why do they all move that way,” I asked, “rocking back and forth?”“Elephants are nomads. They supposed to keep moving. To roam free. Get what they need and move on, not be chained to a circus.” Stefano’s green eyes revealed his distress. “Whether I am here or not, these animals will be, so I do what I can to see they are cared for,” he said, stepping toward an elephant. Mary, her head the size of an armchair, towered eight feet in the air. Her eyes were pools of mahogany, her skin cracked, desert earth. I touched it. Stiff whiskers raked my palm as I stroked her jaw. Next to Mary’s ear, coarse gray skin softened to a freckled pink. Stefano watched from over my shoulder as the elephant sniffed my clothing, my hair. Her huge pupil followed me while I caressed her jowl and traced the furrows beneath her eye. When I let my hand fall to my side, Mary looped her trunk under my wrist. I stiffened. Stefano, his hands on my hips, his warm breath on my neck, reassured me from behind. My bracelets tinkled as Mary raised my arm to her eye. From behind thick-lashed lids, she stared not at my hand, but at my face. I heard her whooshing breath, smelled her animal scent, felt her craggy skin against my own. Mary held onto my wrist, moving with me as I drew my fingertip up past her eye and then down to her mouth. I leaned back against Stefano. His touch aroused me. Hers thrilled me. Between the two, I could barely breathe.
About the Author:
My thoughts after reading “Love in the Elephant Tent”
A memoir, but far from just presenting the facts. I’d call it a true adventure book! But it is more than that too. Beautiful book about growing up, not so much physically, but somehow “internally”, emotionally and mentally. Does Kathleen actually run away from something as the longer version of the title (How Running Away with the Circus Brought Me Home) would suggest? I’m not quite getting that impression.
What I got after I’ve read this amazing book, was a young woman who has no idea what to do with life. As the 9-5 job does not sound appealing to her, she is on a hunt for something. Adventure? Sure. But what I got was more than that. I saw a woman who was looking for sense of her life, looking to establish her priorities, the reason in her existence.
Travelling across USA first, then – a flight ticket to Europe, the fast and probably not quite thought through decision of joining the circus – was in my opinion just that. Searching.
And then there are a few angles, a few problems so to speak, that need some solutions, questions, sometimes not even asked or formulated – needed to be answered all the same… I’ll just mention two. First and foremost – the budding and developing love to Stefano, the handsome elephant trainer, that she unexpectedly falls in, pretty much without her say…
“Stefano lived by different rules. Undiluted rules. He did not hold back from revealing his anger, his passion, or his vulnerability, and he was always genuine. How could I argue with that?
And yet, I did.
I lay there, torn between feeling so damn certain and so utterly confused.
I wanted to run from him
I wanted to run to him.
I wanted control of my emotions.
Instead, I was falling uncontrollably in love”
And then there is the problem with animals… Living and working in the circus, Kathleen was able to experience the cruelty with which the animals were often treated, the resignation in their eyes, how they gave up their fights… The struggles between the feel for adventure, the urge to try new challenges (yeah, riding an ostrich? Hello?) and admitting it all is wrong, on so many levels…
From a “lower category” circus, to a “high end” one – everything comes down to the same. The entrapment of animals and witnessing their suffering.
“To watch a Bengal [tiger] turn tricks, is to witness her defeat…”
There are lots of barriers between Kathleen and Stefano. Characters, language and culture.. While learning a new language can be fun, misunderstandings can cause bursts of laughter, it also brings frustration and helplessness at times – when one simply cannot explain the feelings to the other person… Tiny misunderstandings can grow pretty big if not explained…
I won’t go into many more details. I do not want to totally spoil the book to the future readers. Finishing – one quote that sums it all up beautifully:
“ I will never say that my circus years were all good, but I will say that good came of them. I may not remember how to ride an elephant, but I will remember how to open my heart to love. I may never again fly through the ring on an ostrich, but I will refuse to allow the weight of my own fears to hold me captive. I may never dive into another shark tank, but I will dive wholeheartedly into the untamed emotions of authentic life”.
and just a few paragraphs later:
“My debt to these symbols of patience, strength, wisdom, and dignity could never he repaid, for it was here in the elephant tent that I learned my most important lessons. Simplicity. Truth. Respect. Love.”
So in a summary I just wanted to say a few words. I truly, honestly and really loved this book. And would recommend it with my whole heart!!!