Tessa Fontaine's astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, The Electric Woman , follows the author on a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery--through her time on the road with the last traveling American sideshow and her relationship with an adventurous, spirited mother.Read more...
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Tessa Fontaine's astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, The Electric Woman, follows the author on a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery--through her time on the road with the last traveling American sideshow and her relationship with an adventurous, spirited mother.
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.
- ISBN-13: 9780374158378
- ISBN-10: 0374158371
- Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
- Publish Date: May 2018
- Page Count: 384
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
Step into the ring
The threat of mortality has a peculiar way of amplifying a person’s regrets. The Electric Woman, an honest and emotionally vulnerable memoir by Tessa Fontaine, chronicles the author’s relationship with her mother, who suffered a massive stroke that left her a shadow of her former self.
Inspired by her mother’s lust for life, Fontaine decides to challenge herself and conquer her fears. She says of her mother, “She’s a yes person, a woman of adventure. When I begin to doubt that I can pull this off, I stop and think of her.” On a whim, the author accepts an invitation to join a traveling circus. Although she essentially bluffs her way into a job, Fontaine quickly finds herself fully immersed in the rag-tag carnival lifestyle. She is drawn to this world of illusions and the carnival workers’ ability to seamlessly transform onstage. Fontaine takes up the acts of escape artist, snake charmer and “Electric Woman,” an act during which she lights bulbs with her tongue.
Fontaine partially frames her memoir as an anthropological investigation. She is a stranger in a strange land, observing the various characters that comprise the circus. Yet despite her misgivings, she finds a genuine camaraderie with her carnival co-workers. Throughout the circus narrative, Fontaine soberly recounts hospital visits with her mother in the Bay Area, her obvious love for her mother permeating each interaction like perfume.
In this memoir that seamlessly balances grief, loss and wild-eyed determination, Fontaine makes a compelling case for using fear as an unexpected gift.