#BookReview – The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine @MouthFullofFire @sandstonepress
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine
Published by Sandstone Press on 14th May 2018
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A daughter’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, through life in a traveling sideshow and her mother’s illness
Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:The trick is there is no trick. You eat fire by eating fire.
Two journeys—a daughter’s and a mother’s—bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.
For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?
Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.
A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.
This is a memoir, but not anything you would have read before. It does not read as a memoir but as a piece of fiction, so I had to keep telling myself it was a memoir, this happened, this was somebody’s life! I am normally not a huge fan of memoirs, I mean I know the book is about the person writing it, but I can get quite bored as they go on about themselves (Yes I do know that is the point). This book is completely different, I did not feel like I was reading a memoir, because even though it was about Tessa, it did not feel like it was all about Tessa.
Tessa literally does what a lot of people dream of, she ran away to the circus! She is trying to deal with her mother having a stroke, being told that ‘it won’t be long now’ but she defies the odds. The chapters flit between Tessa’s memories of her mother and how they are all dealing with her mother’s stroke and Davy, her Stepdad, planning a trip for him and her mother to go to Italy, their dream; to her current life on the road, all 150 days of them.
Tessa recounts her days as a “carnie” (although you never call them this!), she starts as a ballsy girl, doing tricks to entice people to come in to the last American travelling show, the World of Wonders, and we follow her as she works her way up to the ‘The Electric Woman’ (hence the book title).
It was interesting to read how life on the road really is. This is not glamour and glitz, it is hard, long days starting at about 8am and if you are lucky in bed for 2am! Everyone mucks in and helps get the tent set up, the banners, lights etc. The cleaning situation and showers are something I do not think I could cope with so I do not think that is the life for me! You are completely immersed in this book, you can almost smell how bad the living situations were, see the lights and hear the sounds as if you were there.
All through the book, Tessa is brutally honest, about her fears. The guilt of not saying ‘I love you’ to her mum. Cruel things she did say, and how she does not know if she will have the chance to rectify any of it, so she runs away to the circle to escape from it all.
This book is absolutely a must-read for everyone!
It is mesmerising and I have struggled to put it down. (If only I did not have to work and could read all day *woe*)
*Thanks to Ceris @ Sandstone Press and Tessa for a copy of her book*
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: