The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine

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 Fontai...

Details The Electric Woman

TitleThe Electric Woman
Release DateMay 1st, 2018
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography

Reviews The Electric Woman

    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 illusi...
  • Sonja Arlow
    3.5 starsMany years ago, my aunt married a carnival mechanic.The marriage didn’t last long but while they were together I was given the opportunity to work at the carnival. As a 13-year-old getting unsupervised time in a carnival felt like an amazing gift even if it meant working in one of those lame Feed the Ducks booths. Each night once the place has officially closed, temp staff like myself could ride the scariest ride for as long as they wa...
  • Kathryn
    I have to admit that when I won this book in a giveaway, I was not sure if I would like it. I put off reading it, but then I opened it and I was hooked.Tessa Fontaine runs away from her problems and joins the circus; well, not quite. Tessa becomes intrigued by the sideshows that perform as part of state and area fairs. After interviewing performers and owner's, she is invited by the owner of "World of Wonders" to join up for a season and live the...
  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for my review. Two years after her mother experiences a devastating stroke and is still severely disabled, the author’s parents decide to take a trip to Italy. The author decides to spend a season with a traveling sideshow to take her mind off her grief and worry. The work is grueling and she has to be fearless to learn the acts. Fascinating look behind the scenes and at the lives of the peop...
  • Keith Beasley-Topliffe
    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...
  • Amy Morgan
    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!
  • Pam
    I just finished the best memoir I've read in years -- TheElectric Woman by Tessa Fontaine. It’s about a young woman who literally leaves the difficulties of her life behind to join the circus as a performer. She works as a snake charmer, fire eater, and ultimately as the woman who withstands the electricity in the electric chair. Half the book is her adventures with the circus and the people she meets. The other half is her reflections back on ...
  • Bonnie Brody
    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,...
  • Lesley
    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 carniva...
  • Rhonda Lomazow
    So so good a look at Carnie life family relations.Tessa Fontaine story kept me turning the pages.#netgalley #fsg
  • Molly
    Usually I find memoirs by white women exhausting. Their fish-out-of-water stories strike me as exploitative, both of the reader and the people they encounter on their journeys to (insert eyeroll here) self-discovery. Tessa wasn't born into the sideshow world, and while she only lives in it for 5 months, she writes about it with honesty, humor, and heart. She wants you to believe all of it too—the sweat, tears, and snot that go into making the m...
  • Melissa
    Tessa Fontaine has a very good writing style and really makes the two story lines of her mom’s illness and her summer with the traveling side-show come alive. I don’t quite agree with how she laid out the timeline of the book - there are a few places where it seems she jumps back and forth unnecessarily in time - but it is really interesting.
  • Kristine
    The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-April.This is the autobiography of Fontaine, a female sideshow performer who, for a total of 150 days, learns skills (such as fire-breathing, snakecharming, escaping from handcuffs, sleight of hand magic tricks, sword swallowing), faces fears, and invites risk after her mother experiences symptoms of a stroke related to brain hemorrhage.  She performs at state ...
  • Trina
    I really ENJOYED this book, for all the reasons most of us would: the "freak" show, the last travelling sideshow in the US, state fairs in blistering heat, scary feats of daring, snakes, knives, menacing carnies, etc. There were some great characters among her own crew. But I ADMIRE this book mainly because of Fontaine's courage in facing her fears that she's a bad daughter, a cranky and cruel person, and an inconstant help for her severely, sudd...
  • Rachel Watkins
    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.
  • Jessica Traver cashen
    Fantastic read. Well written with some very colorful characters. I was engrossed from start to finish. This is about Teresa's mothers struggles while getting better after a stroke and about Tessa being in a Carnival. I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Netgalley
  • Marybeth Taranow
    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.
  • Bob Carleson
    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 ...
  • Mark Jobs
    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.
  • Dave Harris
    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.
  • Kayo
    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
  • Diane Yannick
    This debut memoir was an interesting read. I once knew a young, ‘retired’ carnie couple and ever since hearing their stories I’ve been super interested in circus/carnival life. I remember at the DE State Fair they used to have freak shows (yep, that’s what they were called) but I was always too afraid to go in. I figured I might encounter an unexpected sight that would be forever etched in my memory. What makes this book special is the wa...
  • Amy
    I'm such a sucker for a great memoir and can't rave enough about,  The Electric Woman . Tessa Fontaine shares two death-defying stories...her own and the incredible story of her mother who defied all predictions of death for many years after suffering a series of strokes.Many of us dream of escaping it all, but Tessa actually does this and applies for a job working with the World of Wonders, America's last traveling side show. Bravely, she tries...
  • Becky Loader
    Did you ever want to run off and join the carnival? Eat fire? Handle snakes? Nope, neither did I.Tessa Fontaine has a dynamic mother with whom she has had a tumultuous relationship. What about that old saying that there can only be one alpha dog--one boss mare? It is the same with humans.Tessa confronts life and change by trying out for the World of Wonder traveling sideshow. She is accepted as a member. Now, can she hack it. (Read the book: you ...
  • Devon H
    Fontaine's stories are quite engaging, which makes up for the fact that the book seems to skip around quite a bit. However, the back and forth gives readers insight into Fontaine's deeper emotions, emotions that are often on the surface of this book. Fontaine uses emotional vocabulary throughout the book to describe her worries and hopes, which I appreciate tremendously. It is one of the reasons I'm often drawn to memoirs, as I love to hear peopl...
  • Kasia
    This one was just okay for me. I felt like it badly needed an editor, for one, and the parts about her mother never really coalesced with the rest of the narrative. I felt like I never really connected with the author and her motivations, and I never got the feeling she was really giving an inside look at the performers she worked with in the sideshow. Often her perspective came across rather patronizing of them, like she was just collecting expe...
  • Aida Alberto
    I received an advance review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Electrifying. See what I did there? Ha ha. Seriously though it's just a book. I love reading memoirs of all kinds because it gives me a fascinating peeks into the lives of other people and I loved how Tessa Fontaine took me on her journey. Really felt as if we were two friends that she was telling a story to. In my opinion that is a sign of a very well written and told story...
  • Zoé-lee O'farrell
    This is a memoir, but not anything you would have read before. It does not read as a memoir but as a piece of fiction, so I had to keep telling myself it was a memoir, this happened, this was somebody's life! I am normally not a huge fan of memoirs, I mean I know the book is about the person writing it, but I can get quite bored as they go on about themselves (Yes I do know that is the point). This book is completely different, I did not feel lik...
  • Ryan Bradford
    Just fantastic. Fontaine's memoir is striking in both subject and style. She's not afraid to show her vulnerabilities, pettiness, and really dig into some deep emotional shit. She has an amazing ability to allow the reader to process her grief in real-time. So many good carnival stories, too. All the chef kisses.