A Cabinet of Wonders

A Cabinet of Wonders

by Renee Dodd
     
 

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When the curtains are drawn back on the cabinet of wonders, every individual you meet is an original, the indelible mark of their uniqueness shaped in their flesh. Molly and Faye are spirited teenagers—and conjoined twins. Saffron is the Wolf Girl, her female form covered head to toe in fur. Alex/Alexandra is a seductive morphodite, her male/female parts…  See more details below

Overview

When the curtains are drawn back on the cabinet of wonders, every individual you meet is an original, the indelible mark of their uniqueness shaped in their flesh. Molly and Faye are spirited teenagers—and conjoined twins. Saffron is the Wolf Girl, her female form covered head to toe in fur. Alex/Alexandra is a seductive morphodite, her male/female parts irresistible to many. To the rubes that pay good coin to see them, they are Freaks. To the other carnies—those who run the Ferris Wheel, the Girl Show, and more—they are the Starlight Carnival Royale’s most lucrative source of income, and sometimes, friends. To Shadrach the tattooed man of God who travels with them, they are evidence of the divine. For Dugan—scholar, businessman, romantic, and dwarf—the cabinet of wonders is more than just his business, it’s his family and the center of his universe, and he’ll do everything he can to keep it together...despite the rifts that are appearing after three years on the road. Set in 1927, this marvelous tale confronts the spectacle of the Freak Show, steps through the curtains and out the other side, taking the reader to a candid, complex and human space where they can know outsiders as intimates.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dugan the dwarf runs a profitable freak show (sympathetically dubbed the Cabinet of Wonders) during the tail-end of the traveling carnival's pre-Depression golden era in Dodd's debut. Mistreated in the freak show he belonged to as a child, a grownup Dugan acts at once as a father and employer to his brood of Wonders: Molly and Faye, a pubescent pair of Siamese twins, have a doubly difficult adolescence; Saffron, the Wolf Girl of India, leaves Dugan's love unrequited; and fat lady Baby Beatrice seeks the love her carousing husband, Jimmy, never gave her. As the show tours the country, Dugan struggles to maintain control over his menagerie, who begin to bristle under his authority. Dodd has a tendency toward overripe prose, particularly when describing her oddball characters ("[A]nd yet she ran on, her accreted rolls of flesh joggling under the powder pink ruffles of her costume, her strawberry blonde ringlets wilting, plastering themselves against the cherry flush of her baby-smooth forehead and cheeks"), and the smattering of first-person chapters from a grumpy hermaphrodite's point of view obfuscate the narrative, which consists of run-ins with rubes (freak-show attendees), the unraveling of Dugan's show and, most poignantly, the Wonders' search for a certain, separate dignity. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A familial assortment of oddities and freaks populates this novel set in 1927. "Daddy" Dugan is the dwarf manager of the Starlight Carnival Royale. For his "cabinet of wonders," he collects Saffron the Wolf Girl; Molly and Faye, a set of gorgeous teenage twin who are physically joined at the hip; Bea, who weighs more than 400 pounds; Alexander/Alexandra, a sexy hermaphrodite; Shadrach the tattooed man; Sean the giant; and others. And then there is Roxy, a normal-looking teen who feels freakish on the inside and only finds comfort with this group of "wonders." As Roxy travels from one carnival site to another, we come to know the inner thoughts, desires, and dreams of these unique people. At the carnival's final stop in Felicity, WV, a fierce storm destroys the tents and equipment. Gathering together at a local campground, the family decides to break up-each person or pair following his/her/their dream for a new life beyond the carnival scene. Dodd's (creative writing, Georgia Coll. & State Univ.) prose is graceful, smooth, and intelligent, and her well-researched debut novel is sure to please many readers. Highly recommended.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A traveling carnival act struggles to stay together during a disastrous season. Dugan the dwarf is the king of the Freaks. He serves as father figure to and business impresario of the "Cabinet of Wonders," a traveling carnival show featuring unique specimens of humanity. His troop of regulars includes Siamese twins, a wolf lady, a hermaphrodite, a fat lady and a tattooed man. As the 1927 carnival season gets underway, Dugan feels something is amiss, but can't quite put his finger on the problem. His natural wonders still bring in the "rubes," but the Freaks no longer seem satisfied. Tears in the fabric of this makeshift family become apparent as the tour progresses. The Freaks' desire for lasting relationships and stability threaten to dismantle the act. Dodd makes this strange world come alive. A capable performer in her own right, she juggles multiple plot lines. All the marvelous characters strive to accept their feelings about their unusual physical appearance and to find a home outside of the carnival. It's impossible not to be charmed by this vividly drawn crew-their tough exteriors belie tender hearts. Although Dugan is the protagonist, only the hermaphrodite character addresses the reader in the first person. It takes a few chapters to adjust to this unorthodox strategy, but in the end, it works. When it comes to representing carnival life, Dodd obviously did her research. A rare treat: a diverting and insightful piece of quirky fiction.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781612183053
Publisher:
Amazon Publishing
Publication date:
03/13/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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