One friend said she hated this book. One said she loved it (and others said they liked it a lot). Obviously a must read.
I can see both sides. I loved the book for its readability-- it drags you along with it, whereever it seems to be going. Vet student, hops a train, becomes part of a circus, falls in love, interacts with crazy folks, and more! This life is interspersed with the vet as a much older man, which becomes wonderfully relevant at the end.
But I also disliked it (didn't hate it at all) because Gruen is working so hard to shock you on every page. Yes, I know that goes with the territory of a breakneck plot, but for certain scenes it feels extra-special gratuitous. I recognize the work involved in giving the reader something new and exciting on each page, while also tying it into a complex plot, however a little less craziness would have been welcome at times. (Although, I suppose that is the circus for you.)
The culmination of the novel has two twists. The first I thought was obvious (reread that dedication) while the second made me smile hugely. It's what you were hoping for, and Gruen is kind enough to give it to you.