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The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson, February 2024
by Ellen Baker

Mariner Books
384 pages
ISBN: 0063351196
EAN: 9780063351196
Kindle: B0C61XM2DY
Hardcover / e-Book
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"Epic Story of Secrets that Spans Seventy Years"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson
Ellen Baker

Reviewed by S. Lyn Collins
Posted February 16, 2024

Women's Fiction Historical | Women's Fiction Family Life

Ellen Baker's newest novel THE HIDDEN LIFE OF CECILY LARSON is an epic story that spans over seventy years. Begrudgingly abandoned by her mother at an orphanage in 1924 at the age of four, Cecily bonds with the other children and dreams of her mother returning for her.  After a few years, she is sold to a traveling circus to train as a "sister" to Isabelle DuMonde, an existing bareback rider act, and renamed Jacqueline DuMonde. As she learns the routines and travels the country, the circus with all the dangers, cruelty, intrigue, and class distinctions becomes her family. The chapters alternate back and forth between the present day and significant times in her life. In the present day, nonagenarian Cecily is recovering from a broken hip while her daughter and granddaughter are each going through their own crisis. When her grandson submits the DNA of all four generations for a school science project, long-buried secrets are revealed and decisions must be made.  A well-written engaging historical fiction follows Cecily's difficult life journey through meeting her husband to the final satisfying resolution of the multiple storylines.  

Learn more about The Hidden Life of Cecily Larson


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.

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