The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine
A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

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Fontaine’s circus adventures are nicely juxtaposed against her mother’s long journey of recovery, as both women learn to overcome their fears and meet life’s challenges.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

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.

 

About Tessa Fontaine

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Published May 1, 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 384 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Electric Woman
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel on May 12 2018

Fontaine’s circus adventures are nicely juxtaposed against her mother’s long journey of recovery, as both women learn to overcome their fears and meet life’s challenges.

Read Full Review of The Electric Woman: A Memoir ... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Rachel Khong on May 24 2018

...I as a reader see myself in her: the member of the audience who is unmoved, who wants more...The quiet beauty of this book lies in its ordinary, enigmatic human feats of interpersonal connection.

Read Full Review of The Electric Woman: A Memoir ... | See more reviews from NY Times
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