Other members of the show were of course his best friend the fat lady, the cook's serving girl turned Circassian beauty, the strong man and the bearded lady among others.
The story revolves around Fortuno and his reluctance to leave the museum. He doesn't like to mix with normal people because he doesn't feel he can be himself out in the world without scaring people or being made fun of because of being so skinny. Each of the members of the museum have their own peculiar reasons for not liking to be out and they all try to hide either in the museum or under cover of darkness.
One day, forced to run an errand for Barnum, Fortuno decides to put on a larger suit and stuff it with padding before leaving. He realizes that not only can he come and go from the museum without being noticed, he can come and go in the larger world without being noticed. It is with great relish that he starts leaving the museum more often and on differing errands as he soon realizes he is falling in love with one of the other museum members who needs his help. He is soon caught up in a power struggle between Barnum's wife and Barnum himself. Fortuno bravely marches on disregarding threats from both parties all because of his love for Iell the Bearded Lady.
During these struggles, we find out what Fortuno's hidden secret is, as well as what Iell's hidden secret is. The museum burns down, some of his friends from the show fall in love, get married and move away and Fortuno? I think his biggest transformation is that he finds a place to be happy and at peace with himself.
And really, that is the biggest transformation any one person can make in this life, isn't it?
While I liked this book and it was entertaining from the get-go, I thought it took forever for it to start moving in any direction. Everything I was reading was entertaining so I kept reading it, but in regards to it setting the plot and moving it forward, I just thought the author did a shoddy job at the beginning. I think once Bryson figured out what the book was really about - or maybe what Fortuno's transformation was going to be - it was awesome. So if you read the book just go along for the ride - don't expect it to be a race to the end of the book.