Carnival Girl was a fantastic read. The touching and intriguing memoir chronicles the life of author Sonja Herbert as she is raised in post-World War II Germany with her nomadic large family who works the carnival circuit. Can you imagine living in a camper with five siblings forever? You move on a weekly basis and long for a permanent home like those of the children that you usually only get to know for a week. This was Sonja’s upbringing. Sonja vividly portrays throughout her beautiful memoir how much she just longed for a normal life, but I am so glad that God had something else in mind for her because it made for an intriguing and enlightening read.
I don’t want to give spoilers but I will tell you that at some point late in the book Sonja is introduced to two American Mormon missionaries. However Sonja’s interest in the Mormon church is a side-story and I do believe that this book can be enjoyed by any person, religious or not. In fact, if you aren’t religious, you will probably relate well to Sonja’s parents: one a bitter atheist and the other an a-typical Catholic.
Something that I enjoyed the most from this book was Sonja’s great faith from a very early age and how God strengthened her to endure and taught her to be comforted in some really hard circumstances. I also related to some of Sonja’s confusion to when her prayers weren’t answered.
I imagine that Sonja’s mother is dead by now, and so it won’t be too disrespectful to say it, but as a mother of 4, I truly marveled at how much of a burden her children were to her. Of course, I have never raised 6 kids in a caravan while also running a carnival, but part of me was so sad that Mutti (Sonja’s mom) never seemed to enjoy her children. However I also related to Mutti. I recently found I out that I am pregnant at 38 with number 5 and I swear this snippet from the book could transcend through time to my bedroom just a few nights ago:
“From our caraven, Mutti’s loud voice rang out with a harsh edge. ‘I can’t believe this happened again,’ she said. ‘I’m almost forty!’
‘Maybe you should see someone,’ Vati ventured.
‘That’s dangerous.’ Mutti’s voice wavered. ‘Besides, it’s the end of the winder, and we don’t have that kind of money. Later it will be too late.’
‘Don’t cry,’ Vati said. ‘It’s not the end of the world.’
‘What do you know?’ She sobbed. ‘I can’t believe you’d do that to me again.'”
Not just in this small chapter that I related with so well, but throughout the book, I was drawn to Sonja, her family, her circumstances. They were most peculiar, sometimes heartbreaking, but always extremely fascinating and educational.
I highly recommend this book to all my readers. I don’t think anyone would be disappointed in learning all about the carnival girl of all carnival girls.