The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

How many people have considered running away with the carnival when it arrives in town? In The Electric Woman, Tessa Fontaine does just that, joining the World of Wonders traveling sideshow for a season.

Starting out as a "bally girl" in the front of the tent, Fontaine learns to escape from handcuffs, wear a boa constrictor around her neck for hours at a time, eat fire and do simple magic tricks to draw the crowd in toward the inner tent where the main attractions are. As the grueling season progresses, Fontaine moves inside, transforming into the four-legged woman, swallowing swords and eventually becoming her ultimate goal, the electric woman.

Throughout her intriguing memoir, she shares the minute details of the hard, gritty work she does as a carnival hand, and offers portraits of her fellow performers and sketchy carnie men. Hand-in-hand with this lengthy narrative is the story of Fontaine's mother, who suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, followed by many smaller ones, three years before Fontaine joins the show. Her mother was in and out of the hospital many times, but despite her severe handicaps, she eventually was able to travel with Fontaine's stepfather to Italy, a dream trip they'd been planning for years. The Electric Woman is a story of loss, love and acceptance, of learning to overcome one's fears and insecurities and of letting go of what was in order to accept what is. She shows readers how to live each day to the fullest despite obstacles--or perhaps, because of them. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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