Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson
A Novel

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In 1842 Phineas T. Barnum is a young man, freshly arrived in New York and still unknown to the world. With uncanny confidence and impeccable timing, he transforms a dusty natural history museum into a great ark for public imagination. Barnum's museum, with its human wonders and extraordinary live animal menagerie, rises to become not only the nation's most popular attraction, but also a catalyst that ushers America out of a culture of glassed-in exhibits and into the modern age of entertainment.
In this kaleidoscopic setting, the stories of two compelling characters are brought to life. Emile Guillaudeu is the museum's grumpy taxidermist, who is horrified by the chaotic change Barnum brings to his beloved institution. Ana Swift is a professional giantess plagued by chronic pain and jaded by a world of gawkers. The differences between these two are many: one is isolated and spends his working hours making dead things look alive, while the other has people pushing against her, and reacting to her, every day. But they both move toward change, one against his will, propelled by a paradigm shift happening whether he likes it or not, and the other because she is struggling to survive. In many shapes and forms, metamorphosis is at the core of Among the Wonderful. Pursuing this theme, the book weaves a world where upper Manhattan is still untrammeled wilderness, the Five Points is at the height of its bloody glory, and within the walls of Barnum's museum, ancient tribal feuds play out in the midst of an unlikely community of marvels.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Stacy Carlson

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Stacy Carlson's work has appeared in In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, Inkwell, and Lumina. She won the 2003 Dana Portfolio Award, given for three book-length manuscripts, and was awarded residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in California and Galleri Svalbard, in Norway. A native of Seattle, she now lives in Oakland, California.
Published July 12, 2011 by Steerforth. 466 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Among the Wonderful

Kirkus Reviews

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Ana is self-aware, smart, concerned for the well-being of her fellows as they’re jostled by crowds and robbed by management—a case in point being the so-called Aztec Children, who, as their keeper puts it, were “malnourished and frightened” but were kind enough to lead him “into the jungle to the...

Jul 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Among the Wonderful: A Novel

The New York Times

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“I watched these two who were also one,” Ana thinks, observing them onstage, “and suddenly in their struggle I saw my own: A war waged within me, between two opposing wills.” This isn’t so different from the reductive thinking Ana despises in her own audience.

Sep 30 2011 | Read Full Review of Among the Wonderful: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Ana Swift, eight feet tall and resigned to being a spectacle, moves into the fifth floor of the museum Barnum's bought and slowly learns that wild characters reside both inside and outside of the museum's walls.

Apr 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Among the Wonderful: A Novel

Open Letters Monthly

Agreeing, initially, to her father’s idea to put her on display “one day a week for a couple of years, until we could pay off the boat,” any parity on her part is canceled by her father’s shame and her mother’s complicity: As if a line halfway to our neighbor’s house did not form every Saturday ...

Sep 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Among the Wonderful: A Novel

Historical Novel Society

Carlson unfolds the stories of her two protagonists – an eight foot tall giantess and an elderly taxidermist – in alternating sections, which read almost like separate interleaved novellas because she chooses not to bring the two together at all until the surprising and moving climax.

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