It's a scathing look at the control exerted over citizens by a nanny state, but also a tale of ordinary people with oddball skills who just want to live their lives creating something big. In this case, the something big is a circus. A somewhat derelict and not quite successful circus, but, and here lies the poignancy, their own effort at life.
A mixed bag of characters and a very strange old dog led by one Zloty Kornblatt, clown, make up the circus. An unctuous reporter named Hank Hamper represents the state through his byline in the newspaper: The Srutinizer. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that this Hank actually has a crush on the supreme leader of the state, an enigmatic presence known only as Madame J. Hilariously, the Madame has a "Javanese cobalt octopus" named Simeon as a pet. (I couldn't help being reminded of a certain South Indian leader whose followers practiced the same rank sycophancy. She didn't have any interesting pets, though.)
There were also thinly-veiled representations of the Nazi concentration camps portrayed through cattle train transports for the condemned and the obvious "immolation huts." If there were more subtle metaphors and representations, I do not have enough cultural background to pick up on those specifically meant for the state of this country, but the threads were satisfying enough.
A slender read, it does make one curious to sample more offerings by Eli Horowitz. This is one of the criteria by which I rate a book: if it's a first-time read, am I enthused to read others by the writer? Or do I not want to bother?
The Pickle Index was well-executed and funny enough to make me interested. It's a fresh little offering, crisp and tart not unlike a good pickle. (Couldn't resist that one.)