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In Circus of the Queens: The Fortune-Teller’s Fate, Audrey Berger Welz covers a tremendous amount of ground, from St. Petersburg in Czarist Russia to a farm in Savannah, Georgia, and many places in between. Welz’s protagonist is Donatalia Petrovskaya, a product of the Russian aristocracy and an aspiring ballerina whose life is repeatedly sundered by events but who, by dint of her own fortitude, intuition, and pluck — and a measure of good fortune reminiscent of Dickens — always manages to land on her feet.

With revolution brewing in Russia and violence spreading, Donatalia’s father sends his daughter to America to continue her ballet studies. On the ocean voyage to New York, Donatalia suffers a freak accident and breaks her leg, effectively ending her dream of becoming a ballerina. Alone in a strange country, she is befriended by another Russian expatriate and winds up on a large plantation in Savannah, but only for a short time, as soon after her arrival in the South she reconnects with old family friend Vladimir Vronsky, a high-wire artist in a traveling circus that bears his name. Not only does Vladimir find a place in the circus for Donatalia, as a fortune-teller, but for many years to come he will be her only living connection to Russia.

Donatalia is a strong, resilient character who approaches life with an admirable openness. She becomes a fixture not only in the Vronsky circus but also in the lives of Vladimir’s wife, four daughters, and a host of other characters with whom she shares numerous adventures. Circus of the Queens is a sweet, satisfying tale of one woman’s determination, heart, and love.


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