The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson: A Novel (Hardcover)

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson: A Novel By Ellen Baker Cover Image

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson: A Novel (Hardcover)

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“Rich, vibrant and full of atmosphere, The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson drew me in from the first page. An intricately layered portrait of family, identity, and survival. Cecily will steal your heart!”
— Maxwell Gregory, Madison Street Books, Chicago, IL

“A family secret, a DNA test, a journey as rich and colorful as the early-day circus itself. Through Cecily Larson’s hidden life, Ellen Baker tenderly examines personal determination, lost love, family ties, and our innate need to discover our own truth.” — Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and Before and After

Orphan Train meets Before We Were Yours meets Water for Elephants in this compelling multigenerational novel of survival, love, and the families we make.

In 1924, four-year-old Cecily Larson’s mother reluctantly drops her off at an orphanage in Chicago, promising to be back once she’s made enough money to support both Cecily and herself. But she never returns, and shortly after high-spirited Cecily turns seven, she is sold to a traveling circus to perform as the “little sister” to glamorous bareback rider Isabelle DuMonde. With Isabelle and the rest of the circus, Cecily finally feels she’s found the family she craves. But as the years go by, the cracks in her little world begin to show. And when teenage Cecily meets and falls in love with a young roustabout named Lucky, she finds her life thrown onto an entirely unexpected—and dangerous—course.

In 2015, Cecily is now 94 and living a quiet life in Minnesota, with her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandson. But when her family decides to surprise her with an at-home DNA test, the unexpected results not only bring to light the tragic love story that Cecily has kept hidden for decades but also throw into question everything about the family she’s raised and claimed as her own for nearly seventy years. Cecily and everyone in her life must now decide who they really are and what family—and forgiveness—really mean.

Sweeping through a long period of contemporary history, The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson is an immersive, compelling, and entertaining family drama centered around one remarkable woman and her determination to survive.

Ellen Baker is the author of Keeping the House and I Gave My Heart to Know This. She has worked as a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. Originally from the Upper Midwest, she currently lives in Maine.

Product Details ISBN: 9780063351196
ISBN-10: 0063351196
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: February 20th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English

“A family secret, a DNA test, a journey as rich and colorful as the early-day circus itself. Through Cecily Larson’s hidden life, Ellen Baker tenderly examines personal determination, lost love, family ties, and our innate need to discover our own truth.” — Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and Before and After

“A sprawling, beautiful delight of a novel spanning nearly a century as four generations gradually peel back the layers of long-buried family secrets that may just change everything. Ellen Baker weaves the intricacies of family dynamics into the complicated fabric of early 20th-century America, deftly tackling issues of race, identity, loss, and trauma through the story of a family you’ll be rooting for with all your heart. I immensely enjoyed this sweeping, heartrending, emotional roller coaster of a tale, which made me laugh, cry, and think about the true meaning of family.” — Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Daughter

"Unforgettable. Baker's electrifying tale is a haunting testament to the complex intersections of familial bonds driven by a remarkable courage which can only be found in hope."  — Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek series 

"The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson is a deeply satisfying, multi-generational rollercoaster of a novel written in gorgeous prose and with characters that ring so true you want to reach out and touch them. I savored every page of this book and will remember the story of Cecily and Lucky for a very long time to come." — Tara Conklin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Romantics and Community Board

The Hidden Life Of Cecily Larson explores the lasting legacy of love, family, loss, and luck, beautifully told through the lives of an extended family. It is heartbreaking, yet redeeming, and shines a light on the power of hope. I loved Ellen’s storytelling.” — Crystal Smith Paul, author of Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?

“Part genetic mystery and part adventure story, The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson takes readers on a riveting ride through America, spanning nearly a century of history, heartbreak, and—most importantly—hope. At the center of the novel is one impossible love story, whose reverberations echo through the generations in surprising ways. With rich, original settings, determined characters, and countless twists and turns, Ellen Baker has written a deeply felt novel about families, both lost and found.”  — Thao Thai, author of Banyan Moon

“Ellen Baker has written the quintessential escape novel, whose overflowing plot involves three generations of women, family secrets, a one-ring circus (really), and the pleasure of historical flashbacks. Light a fire and settle in.” — Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy

"Baker’s re-creation of circus life, tuberculosis-sanitarium life, and home-for-wayward-girls life in the 1920s and ’30s is well researched and punchy." — Kirkus Reviews