The Weight of Air

ElizabethBook Reviews, Historical Fiction, The Twentieth Century Leave a Comment

Title: The Weight of Air: A Novel

Author: Kimberly Duffy

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Copyright: February 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0764240382


Format: Paperback, 394 Pages

Genres: Historical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction, Christian Historical Fiction


Two women–bound by blood, torn apart by circumstance–find together that true strength comes in many forms.

In 1911, Mabel MacGinnis is Europe’s strongest woman and has performed beside her father in the Manzo Brothers Circus her entire life. When he dies unexpectedly, she loses everything she’s ever known and sets off in the company of acrobat Jake Cunningham in hope of finding the mother she thought was dead.

Isabella Moreau, America’s most feted aerialist, has given everything to the circus. But age and injury now threaten her security, and Isabella, stalked by old fears, makes a choice that risks everything. Then her daughter Mabel appears alongside the man who never wanted to see Isabella again, and she is forced to face the truth of where, and in what, she derives her worth.

As Mabel and Isabella’s lives become entangled beneath the glittering lights and flying trapeze of Madison Square Garden, their resiliency and resolve are tested as they learn the truth of what it means to be strong.


All Mabel MacGinnis has ever known is life in the Manzo Brothers Circus. In 1911, as the strongest woman in Europe, she has quite a reputation. Bram, her father, was a famous strong man. When he dies suddenly, her standing in the circus becomes uncertain. She learns that the mother she thought had died years ago has been alive the entire time. To make matters worse, the truth was hidden from her. She decides to leave the circus and travel to the United States to find her mother. Isabella Moreau is a celebrated aerialist who is no longer as young or supple as she once was. She fights to stay working when everything seems to be against her. The younger aerialists mock her, and the competition is high. She also hides that she’s really Polly MacGinnis, the mother Mabel earnestly seeks. Will the two women be reunited?

This is a tale about two resilient women who face great adversity. Mabel grapples with feelings of inadequacy and fear of abandonment. She cannot deny her growing attraction to Jake Cunningham, an acrobat. Isabella wants to live life on her own terms, not as some man’s wife. She is haunted by her past and the daughter she left behind. In this book, Duffy masterfully writes about the enduring connection between two flawed women. This novel’s greatest treasure is its characters, who are wonderfully rendered and easy to relate to. Mabel and Isabella, in their brokenness and hurt, are compelling to behold. I particularly love stories about unconventional women who fight society’s expectations. This must-read story is both touching and heartbreaking.

Originally featured on the History Novel Society website.


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