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The Electric Woman

A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts
Narrated by: Tessa Fontaine
Length: 13 hrs and 30 mins
4 out of 5 stars (55 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Electric Woman is Tessa Fontaine's astonishing audiobook memoir about a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery. Narrated by the author, this audiobook recounts Tessa's life 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 her mother back; 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.

©2018 Tessa Fontaine (P)2018 Macmillan Audio

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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How did she actually make a side show boring?

Woman runs off to join the last traveling side show in the US some years after her mother's constant and debilitating strokes. How could this be boring? It was. Not boring enough to stop reading, but I wouldn't recommend it.

This feels like two books: very well-written vignettes about her mother's strokes and a bit about family and her childhood and an adequately written story of the few months she worked in a traveling side show, which was linear. She even titles sections day 5 of 150 and such.

The problem with the side show is that it's just...that. Maybe because they aren't really allowed to associate with other carnies or people at the various fairs and carnivals they travel to, maybe because all they do is work or perform, there is absolutely no setting outside the side show. She says they're in WI, MN, etc. but not one iota of description of place. I think there's more descriptions of Walmart than any other setting. They tend to go shopping after midnight and are allowed about an hour and a half at the Mall of America during the day when they're at the MN state fair. Also not much character development, which is a little strange because she's with her fellow side show artists 24/7.

The author does an excellent job of describing the sideshow life, acts, what they do on a day-to-day basis but it just isn't all that interesting. There's no real historical context or even much context as it pertains to her life. I think she joins because of a childhood fascination and just has to get away from what's happening with her mother--and can because her stepfather is taking care of her mother. But if the author stripped out the entire story of her mother, nobody ever would have known it was there. There seems to be no connection between the two stories. I kept looking for something explicit, or a metaphor for what the sideshow has to do with the other part of the story, but never really found one. Still, without the story of her mother, this book would have been a one star read.

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taut

There is no doubt in my mind that the story she is attempting to tell is entertaining. I could not finish the audio version because the narration was, the opposite of taut.... I gave it three honest tries and made it 4 hours until I could take it no more.
Whoever taught the author the word taut, should squat on an apricot.

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Love this book.

The author read this book with such feeling and it felt as she was reading it, she was reliving it at the same time.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Incredible

Life-changing must-read (or must-listen). Beautiful, brave, humbling, with astonishingly vivid imagery. Just so beautifully written.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I loved this book.

I love adventure books, they take me places I will never go, doing things I will never do. This book is both of those and I enjoyed every minute of it . This was also the first book that held my attention from beginning to end, no rewinding to go back to the place I was before I drifted away.
I especially appreciated that the author was also the narrator.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Liked ittt

I like circus things and life lessons. Having a parent who is ill at the moment, it was comforting to me

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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more about her mother's stroke than freaks

she spends a lot of time on her family, I got the book to read about traveling with my freak show

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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too detailed

I couldn't finish this. once she started listing every single thing she did in a day I knew I wouldn't make it which is sad because some parts were very beautifully written, especially the parts about her family's history. also the intertwining of the two stories didn't always work for me. interesting idea but not sure this was the best approach. I found myself wanting to know more about her family and less about carnival life, though this story was also intriguing in the beginning.

I am very curious how it ends though so might come back to it later.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful