The novel is very episodic, following the life of Lavinia Bump in chronological order. It lacks suspense, going from one incident on to the next. The Victorianesque first-person narrator gets in her own way much of the time, interrupting conversations to add comments to the reader, most of which are not needed. Between the lack of tension and the constant speed bumps in the few dramatized scenes, the work is slow going. The relationship between Lavinia and P.T. Barnum is the best part of the book: it comes to life, while most of the book is narrative and "told," as opposed to "shown." Readers interested in American history will enjoy the wealth of information about this period.