The Electric Woman
A daughter’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, through life in a traveling sideshow and her mother’s illnessTurns 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.

The Electric Woman Details

TitleThe Electric Woman
Author
ReleaseMay 1st, 2018
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374158378
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography, Biography Memoir

The Electric Woman Review

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advance reader copy from publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley.Tessa Fontaine was 30 when she was invited for a 5-month stint with America's last traveling sideshow, the World of Wonders. She started as a bally girl (someone that lures people to buy tickets for the show), then progressed to snake handling, handcuff escape, and fire eating. But her education in the sideshow arts did not end there. She performed the illusion of a 4-legged lady and what she considered her I received an advance reader copy from publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley.Tessa Fontaine was 30 when she was invited for a 5-month stint with America's last traveling sideshow, the World of Wonders. She started as a bally girl (someone that lures people to buy tickets for the show), then progressed to snake handling, handcuff escape, and fire eating. But her education in the sideshow arts did not end there. She performed the illusion of a 4-legged lady and what she considered her ultimate triumph...as the Electric Lady. For this she sat in an electric chair and lit up light bulbs with her tongue! She also practiced sword swallowing using a twisted up hanger, but this challenge proved insurmountable. This unique and all-consuming experience (sideshow artists get very little sleep) was a parallel story to that of her mother Teresa recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke. Tessa's parents were divorced when she was a toddler, but her mother remarried a man named Davy who loved her absolutely. While others essentially gave up hope for Teresa's recovery, Davy could not fathom life without her. Not only did he nurture his ailing wife in every way possible, but against all rationale took her on a dream trip to Italy. Tessa struggles with guilt from once telling her Mom she didn't love her, and not being around for her rehabilitation as much as she could be. Signing on with the traveling sideshow was a thrill, a challenge, and a means of escapism. I do enjoy reading about carnivals and sideshows. They are mysterious, magical and yes...a form of escapism. I think of the colorful striped circus tents, flashing bulbs and various oddities to be found there. It was interesting to read about how these traveling performers withstand extreme weather conditions, sleeping arrangements, ability to shower/toilet, and set up and break down their shows. In fact, inside the big trailer where they bunk at night and basically live, if someone cannot withstand the life, their name is immortalized on the wall with the moniker " couldn't hack it."While I enjoyed the peek inside the inner workings of a traveling sideshow, I wasn't as interested when Tessa waxed poetic about her mother's illness in tandem. I also felt she could have edited the book down a bit more. Sometimes less is more!
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  • Keith Beasley-Topliffe
    January 1, 1970
    Fascinating. Tessa Fontaine, a young woman (with an MFA in literature) joins World of Wonders, the last traveling sideshow, for their 2013 season--150 days of long hours, hard work, and performing as a bally girl (outside the show, helping lure customers inside with fire eating and such), a talker (providing a running commentary on some of the inside acts), and a performer (the headless woman, the four-legged woman, and ultimately as the electric woman). This story is interwoven with the story o Fascinating. Tessa Fontaine, a young woman (with an MFA in literature) joins World of Wonders, the last traveling sideshow, for their 2013 season--150 days of long hours, hard work, and performing as a bally girl (outside the show, helping lure customers inside with fire eating and such), a talker (providing a running commentary on some of the inside acts), and a performer (the headless woman, the four-legged woman, and ultimately as the electric woman). This story is interwoven with the story of her mother's stroke several months before World of Wonders and the long, slow, recovery punctuated by many crises. The backstage stuff (living in a trailer, mid-night trips to Walmart, interactions between the show people (like her) and the carnies who run the games, food, and rides) is nearly as interesting as her quest to learn everything possible in her time with the show. Her portraits of her fellow performers are sharp and sympathetic. I don't want to say more, because much of the fun is in following Tessa's journey (even if that drove me to searching YouTube to see some of the folks she worked with).I received this book through NetGalley in return for writing a review of an uncorrected digital galley. The publication date is May 1st.
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  • Amy Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. I absolutely loved reading this story. The author presents a good balance of her life before and during her time with the sideshow. She has a great grasp on the peopke around her and really makes you feel a part of whst she was experiencing. Brave, honest and adventurous this was an excellent read!
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautifully written personal story about facing one's fear while going through parent's illness and joining a traveling sideshow. You may think both stories don't intertwine but they do. Ms. Fontaine goes back and back forth with her story by sharing how both worlds struggle with not just finding acceptance but how to go through their world without being "a sideshow" by other people's perception. In all this, Ms. Fontaine goes back forth with her own feelings of not being there for her This is a beautifully written personal story about facing one's fear while going through parent's illness and joining a traveling sideshow. You may think both stories don't intertwine but they do. Ms. Fontaine goes back and back forth with her story by sharing how both worlds struggle with not just finding acceptance but how to go through their world without being "a sideshow" by other people's perception. In all this, Ms. Fontaine goes back forth with her own feelings of not being there for her mom and her constant worry of doing her job right and finding acceptance from her peers. I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review. #NetGalley #TheElectricWoman
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  • Lesley
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book. After her mother suffers from a debilitating stroke, Tessa decides joins a traveling sideshow. The story nicely parallels her mother's story of progress with Tessa's time in the World of Wonders. I could almost smell the stench of sweat and feel the author's tired muscles as she worked tirelessly for the show. This book was a mesmerizing look into the world of freak shows and carnival life as well as a lovely story of what some of u Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book. After her mother suffers from a debilitating stroke, Tessa decides joins a traveling sideshow. The story nicely parallels her mother's story of progress with Tessa's time in the World of Wonders. I could almost smell the stench of sweat and feel the author's tired muscles as she worked tirelessly for the show. This book was a mesmerizing look into the world of freak shows and carnival life as well as a lovely story of what some of us will go through to overcome pain and loss.
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  • Bob Carleson
    January 1, 1970
    The trick is, There is no trick. Sage words coming from the author as she plunges into an unknowable world of a side show of all things. Why a side show we ask. The only thing comes to mind has to do with adrenaline rush and exploring a curious new world. Ms. Fontaine took us on a nervous (for me, as hollywood had me preparing for disaster at every moment) knife box, sword swallowing trip working with people who appear threatening at first. Come to find out, with the author's help, carnies are g The trick is, There is no trick. Sage words coming from the author as she plunges into an unknowable world of a side show of all things. Why a side show we ask. The only thing comes to mind has to do with adrenaline rush and exploring a curious new world. Ms. Fontaine took us on a nervous (for me, as hollywood had me preparing for disaster at every moment) knife box, sword swallowing trip working with people who appear threatening at first. Come to find out, with the author's help, carnies are good at their skills, surrounded by a community of like minded folks, and do ok in their world/career which is not like ours. The job is the job and not too different from the ones we work in. Tessa's Mother's stroke and subsequent care needs would have stopped most of us in our tracks but she continually moves forward through this tragedy by frankly and honestly addressing her needs to address the grief. A great story well told is a favorite saying for me when an artist performs his or her art as it should be performed. Thank you Ms. Fonatine. "The trick is there is not trick."
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  • Mark Jobs
    January 1, 1970
    Loved this book! Tessa Fontaine gives you a glimpse into the rarely seen world of a traveling carnival show, while paralleling an ongoing traumatic family struggle. Gritty and glamorous, heart breaking and heart warming, funny and frightening; Fontaine takes you up and down through this memoir. What is fact and what is fiction in a world of headless women and sword swallowers? The Electric Woman is a must read.
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  • Dave Harris
    January 1, 1970
    What a wonderful book! Ms Fontaine joins the last traveling U.S. sideshow. She explores the closed society of the "carney" and is faced with the contrast between the performer’s confrontation of stage danger and the display of real life bravery by her Mother. This is a sensitive treatment of extremes, dreams and regrets.
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  • Kayo
    January 1, 1970
    A fun and exciting look at the carnie life. Loved the relationship with her parents.Thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it
  • Rachel Watkins
    January 1, 1970
    Tessa Fontaine is a brave woman: a snake handler, a fire breather, a daughter who is losing her mother to a massive brain injury. Her memoir of her time traveling for a season as a performer in the last traveling sideshow is more than a documentary of freak show. It is the story of a daughter coming to terms with the woman her mother was and it’s so beautifully written. Highly recommend.
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  • Brent
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant, beautiful, and brave! The first "must read" book of 2018If this book doesn't inspire you to soak up every possible moment of life, then you just aren't paying enough attention.
  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    So so good a look at Carnie life family relations.Tessa Fontaine story kept me turning the pages.#netgalley #fsg
  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    When I was a child of a certain age, my favorite book was Toby Tyler. He was a young boy who joined the circus. I thought that was the neatest thing. In 'The Electric Woman', Tessa Fontaine, a grown woman, decides to join a real carnival, specifically their side show. She tells them she is able to eat fire and perform other acts that she is unable to do. "Sideshows are where people come to see public displays of their private fears: of deformity, of disruption in the perceived gender binary, of When I was a child of a certain age, my favorite book was Toby Tyler. He was a young boy who joined the circus. I thought that was the neatest thing. In 'The Electric Woman', Tessa Fontaine, a grown woman, decides to join a real carnival, specifically their side show. She tells them she is able to eat fire and perform other acts that she is unable to do. "Sideshows are where people come to see public displays of their private fears: of deformity, of disruption in the perceived gender binary, of mutation, of disfigurement, of a crossover with the animal world, of being out of proportion. And that is the sideshow's intention - to frame whoever or whatever is on display as being outside the realm of what's "normal". " I remember going to side shows as a child. Even the Ringling Brothers had one. The experience was frightening, amazing, and each year it was my favorite part of the circus.This book is about Tessa's inner and outer odyssey as she travels with her caravan. Interspersed with her experiences with the circus, are her feelings about her family, especially her mother who is very ill. Tessa's mother had a stroke a few years ago and has suffered one setback after another. For most of the book it is questionable whether she will live or die, what her cognitive abilities are, and what quality of life she is experiencing.Perhaps it's me, but I found it very difficult to connect with this book. I never really understood why Tessa wanted to join a side show and how her analogy between her experiences there connected with her mother's life. I found Tessa's writing to be very superficial and wanted a deeper and more intimate portrait of herself and her mother.
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  • Kyra Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    The Electric Woman is the fascinating and beautifully written memoir of Tessa Fontaine. Tessa artfully intertwines her personal account of straying from her comfort zone by joining the last traveling US sideshow as a fire eater and her family’s struggle after her mother suffers from a debilitating stroke. The story gives you a look inside carnival life, the bravery of Tessa and her mother, and the hardships people will go through to overcome a tragedy. This book is the ultimate ode to living lif The Electric Woman is the fascinating and beautifully written memoir of Tessa Fontaine. Tessa artfully intertwines her personal account of straying from her comfort zone by joining the last traveling US sideshow as a fire eater and her family’s struggle after her mother suffers from a debilitating stroke. The story gives you a look inside carnival life, the bravery of Tessa and her mother, and the hardships people will go through to overcome a tragedy. This book is the ultimate ode to living life to its fullest and I highly recommend! Available 5/1. Thank you for sending me this gorgeous book, Farrar, Straus and Giroux!
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  • Marybeth Taranow
    January 1, 1970
    I requested this book because I love anything related to freak shows and carnivals. This did not disappoint. This was full of self discovery, strength and healing. I will recommend this book highly and will purchasing a physical copy as well.
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