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Wonder When You'll Miss Me

Wonder When You'll Miss Me

3.8 20
by Amanda Davis

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Follow sixteen-year-old Faith Duckle in this audacious and darkly funny tale as she moves through the difficult journey from the schoolyard to the harlequin world of the circus. At fifteen, Faith was lured under the bleachers by a bunch of boys at a football game and raped. Now, almost a year later, a newly thin Faith is haunted by her past, and by the cruel,


Follow sixteen-year-old Faith Duckle in this audacious and darkly funny tale as she moves through the difficult journey from the schoolyard to the harlequin world of the circus. At fifteen, Faith was lured under the bleachers by a bunch of boys at a football game and raped. Now, almost a year later, a newly thin Faith is haunted by her past, and by the cruel, flippant ghost of her formerly fat self, who is bent on revenge.

This quest for retribution eventually compels Faith to violence, forcing her to flee home in search of the only friend she has — a troubled but caring busboy named Charlie, who is the lover of a sideshow performer — and to tumble into the colorful, transient world of the circus. But as she leaves her old life behind and dives headfirst into a world of adult passions and dreams, mercurial allegiances, and exhilarating self-discovery (while paying considerable dues with a shovel in the elephant tent), Faith ultimately begins to discover who she is and all that she is capable of.

Wonder When You'll Miss Me combines tender wit with page-turning energy and characters as original as they are memorable. By turns harrowing and poignant, lyrical and hilarious, it is a vibrant, compelling novel readers won't forget.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“Amanda Davis writes gently, even poetically about extraordinary brutality. She has a distinctively creepy, even noirish sensibility.”
Elizabeth Strout
“An utterly unique take on what it means to run away and join a circus.”
Jonathan Ames
“This book is a circus Pygmalion — a spectacular tale of injury, heartbreak, and metamorphosis.”
Michelle Chalfoun
“At the end of this rich and satisfying novel...I did not want to leave.”
Susan Orlean
“This is a marvelous modern-girl odyssey, dark and comic and poignant and smart.”
Brady Udall
“Amanda Davis has a wicked and inspired imagination.”
Susan Richards Shreve
"This is such a good book—the voice is so engaging, heartbreaking and true."
Michael Chabon
“A story that is at once harrowing and, strangely, filled with adventure.”
—Susan Richards Shreve
“This is such a good book—the voice is so engaging, heartbreaking and true.”
--Susan Richards Shreve
“This is such a good book--the voice is so engaging, heartbreaking and true.”
Clea Simon
Despite the grim setup of our protagonist's story, this novel is one of unlikely triumph, a coming-of-age story with twists a shade darker than the average adolescent's, replete with romance and danger, life lessons, and a completely satisfying conclusion.

How can such a dark book be so full of life? Credit author Davis's subtle depiction of Faith's depression and despair, and her exuberant rise into recovery.—The Boston Globe

Davis’ stunning first novel expands a short story from her collection Circling the Drain (1999). Lonely for her dead father, an outcast at her high school, Faith Duckle has only one confidant: the Fat girl, a grotesquely distorted version of Faith as she was before a brutal sexual assault drove her to attempt suicide. The Fat Girl follows Faith everywhere, consoling her, counseling her, and relentlessly urging her to exact vengeance on the popular boys who hurt her. Faith gives in and attacks one of them after school, and then she and the Fat Girl run away to join the circus. Davis is expert at rendering the small cruelties of life in Faith’s bleak hometown, juxtaposing them with the frayed grandeur and scrappy glamour of the circus, where she eventually comes to terms with herself. This is an astonishing debut: dark, disturbing, and fiercely openhearted.
The New Yorker
The circus has long been a refuge for society’s misfits; for some, it is the inherent danger of the acts that offers a welcome escape from reality. Faith—the heroine of the first novel by the late Amanda Davis, Wonder When You'll Miss Me—runs away from her high school, her mother, and the police and remakes herself as Annabelle, the elephant-dung mucker for a traveling circus troupe. Psychologically disjointed (she is trailed at all times by her imaginary alter ego), Annabelle seeks solace in acrobatics. “I wanted to tell her about the woman on the trapeze. How I’d held my breath and how my heart had pounded,” Davis writes. “How I’d seen a whole world up there in the air, and the one down here had disappeared.”

Ascension, a novel by Steve Galloway, focuses on the travails of a wire walker named Salvo Ursari. As a child, his parents were killed by Transylvanian villagers; forty-five years later, during the family act on the high wire, his twin daughters plunge to their death. But while Ursari is on the wire, all that matters is the next step. “Immediately everything receded. All his fears, all his memories, all he loved and all he loathed,” Galloway writes.

The eponymous heroine (based on a real-life tiger trainer) of Robert Hough’s The Final Confession of Mabel Stark joins the circus after escaping from a psychiatric ward, where she was committed for refusing to fulfill her wifely duties. For Mabel, life with her big cats reminds her that happiness always has its dark side: “No matter how well things’re going, you always know it’s only a matter of time before a claw catches, or a tooth snags, or a forepaw lashes, and your contentment feels bearable again.” (Andrea Thompson)
Publishers Weekly
Feeling invisible is only one problem for 16-year-old Faith Duckle, the engaging protagonist of Davis's auspicious debut novel (an expansion of her short story "Faith, or Tips for the Successful Young Lady" from her critically acclaimed short story collection, Circling the Drain). The ironically named Faith is also running from a brutal assault that led to a suicide attempt and a stay in rehab, where she shed 48 pounds but not her despair. When she returns to school, nobody seems to notice, except her imaginary "fat girl" alter ego who reminds her, "There are all kinds of anger.... Some kinds are just more useful than others," and convinces her to exact bloody vengeance on the boy who was a key participant in the violence. Fleeing the aftermath of her angry attack, she joins the small traveling Fartlesworth Circus, where she cleans up after elephants and horses and gradually detaches herself from the haunting fat girl who delights in dogging her every move. Her new identity, Annabelle Cabinet, revels in the spangled sawdust world of performing acrobats, animals, clowns and freaks, and begins to heal. Davis revitalizes the moth-eaten circus motif with her tensely lyrical prose and full-bodied characterizations. Faith/Annabelle's gradual path to happiness among the "misfits" of the big top leads her, and readers, on a fast-paced, well-documented (Davis actually toured with a circus in 1999) adventure toward self-acceptance. While some readers may be dissatisfied with an ambiguous ending that eschews a sentimental resolution to Faith's metamorphosis, Davis remains true to her character's emerging independence, confidence and faith in the future. Agent, Henry Dunow. (Mar.) Forecast: Given its theme of adolescent angst and the author's fresh and accessible style, booksellers could easily recommend this title as a YA crossover. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Faith was a fat girl, but after a suicide attempt keeps her hospitalized for seven months, she returns to school thinner, more attractive, and optimistic that things will get better. Not only do they stay the same, but the "fat girl" inside her is still serving as a gluttonous, pessimistic shadow and vocal instigator, trying to persuade her to skip town and to take revenge on her enemies. The fat girl finally gets her way, and Faith joins the circus, hoping to end up with her new friend Charlie. He is nowhere to be found, but Faith, now calling herself Annabelle, finds a home with the ragtag group of performers. Much of the story is heartbreaking in its depiction of teen cruelty, and of the protagonist's efforts to maintain her sanity in spite of hardships. Davis's writing is at its finest when the protagonist is struggling through the constant trials with her distant mother, her ineffectual teachers, and her one true friend's suicide. Girls like Faith, and the reason for her suicide attempt, are well known in both fact and fiction. The author succeeds in making this character unique, with flaws that teens will relate to. Readers will root for Faith, and the heartwarming conclusion will leave them satisfied.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Heartbreaking if not flawless novel debut by Davis (stories: Circling The Drain, 1999) about a severely traumatized girl struggling to recover her sanity and self-esteem. From time immemorial, little boys have dreamed of running off to join the circus—and it stands to reason that little girls must have similar fantasies. At 15, Faith Duckle may not have been a girl, and at nearly 200 pounds she certainly wasn’t little. But she certainly was innocent, and totally unable to manage the shock of being gang-raped by a group of high school hooligans under the bleachers during the annual Homecoming game. Some months after her assault, Faith took an overdose of tranquillizers and nearly killed herself. She then spent almost a year in Berrybrook, a mental institution where she slowly put her life back together—and lost 60 pounds. She then went back to school but found that the ordinary routines of teenaged life were now too juvenile for her. One of her few friends was Charlie, who was dating a member of the Fartlesworth Circus, which was just then passing through town. Charlie introduced Faith to his friends in the sideshow, who forged a kind of misfits bond with her and allowed her to join them as they toured the hinterlands of the Deep South. Accompanied everywhere by the Fat Girl (the ghost of Faith’s former self), Faith cautiously allowed herself to become a part of this initially alien but eventually quite welcoming world, and worked her way up the ranks from grounds crew to trapeze artist. And once she found herself secure in her new life and new world, she began to make plans for getting back at the people who nearly destroyed her years before. The story rambles somewhat and takes time tocohere, but then it manages to express the unutterable anguish of a child cast into an adult world of hatreds and cruelties that ought to be fatal but walk away intact.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
A Novel

Chapter One

At school I was careful not to look like I watched everything, but I did. The fat girl fell into step beside me. She had a handful of gumdrops and sugar on her chin.

"There are all kinds of anger," she said. "Some kinds are just more useful than others."

A locker slammed behind us. I tried not to speak too loudly, because no one except me saw her. "I'm not angry," I whispered.

"Saying you're not angry is one kind," she said. "Not very useful at all, though."

I ignored her and brushed hair out of my eyes. There were days when she was a comfort and days when she was a nightmare. I had yet to determine what kind of day this would be.

We made our way outside. The fat girl had stringy brown hair and wore a blue blouse that was spotted and stained. She sucked on a Fudgsicle as though the autumn day was blissful and warm, but I was freezing. We pressed ourselves against the courtyard wall to watch the crowd file by. When I turned my head she followed my gaze and patted my shoulder.

"Don't get your hopes up, Faith," she said. "Sweetie, I'm telling you, that is never going to work out."

She was talking about Tony Giobambera, who had dark curly hair all over his body and smiled with his mouth but not with his eyes; who walked slowly, like a man with a secret.

I said, "You never know."

She said, "Actually, I do know." Then she sucked off a big piece of chocolate.

Tony Giobambera settled on his rock and lit a cigarette. I followed the fat girl to a place where we could watch him. He smoked like the cigarette was an extension of his ropey arm and rough hand. When he leaned back and blew a stream into the sky, I watched the pout of his lips, the black curl that fell over one eye. Then Tony Giobambera smiled in our direction and I wanted to disappear.

"Nothing like a little attention to send you over the edge," the fat girl said.

"What would you do?" I said. "I mean I don't think you'd do anything different."

"I'd think about getting even," she said. "I'd think about making something happen."

Instead I found a better place on the grass where I could see him but pretend to stare off into space, thinking about more important things than how much I would give up just to have Tony Giobambera run his finger along my cheek and my throat again.

- - -

It was after what I did, the long summer after I'd shed myself completely and was prepared to come back to school like a whole new person, only inside it was still me. It was at an end-of-the-summer party a week before school started. I'd walked there from my house and the Carolina night was humid and heavy. I sang softly to myself, thinking of how different I looked, of what it would be like to walk into a party in normal-person clothes bought from a normal store.

I smoothed the front of my new sleeveless green blouse. I could hear the party behind the big white door. I took a deep breath and rang the bell, but nothing happened.

I leaned over a little and through the windows I saw people draped over couches and moving in the dark. I rang the bell again, then tried the door. It was open.

Inside, Led Zeppelin blasted from the stereo. A guy and a girl curled up together in the corner of the foyer. In the living room, people stood in clumps along the wall or splayed themselves over couches and chairs. The house rang with noise. I walked down a hallway. I put my hands in my pockets, then took them out again.

In the kitchen I found a beer but didn't open it. The smell of pot drifted up the stairs from the basement. A few muscled guys and a pale, fragile-looking girl sat around the kitchen table flipping quarters into a glass. They slurred their words, laughing loudly and hitting each other in the back of the head when a quarter missed the cup. Drink, drink, drink! they chanted. The girl smoked a cigarette with a glazed smile. One guy glanced up at me, but looked away quickly. I blushed anyway.

I wandered downstairs to the basement, where I recognized a few people from last year's English class. They sat in a circle around a reedy guy with long blond hair and a red bong, hanging on every word he had to say. He told a complicated story, something involving a car and the police, but I couldn't follow it. Every so often one of the girls shook her head. "Fuck," she said, and ran her tongue over her braces. "Holy fuck."

I went back upstairs and walked from room to room waiting for someone to notice the new me, but no one seemed to. Disappointment pushed me outside. I tripped my way down wooden stairs, away from the bright lights of the house toward the small latticed huddle of a gazebo. Inside there was a bench and I sat, slapping away mosquitoes, with a tightness in my chest that made me want to scream. How could everything change so much and stay exactly the same?

I'd lost forty-eight pounds and my skin had mostly cleared up. I'd missed a whole semester of school and disappeared for seven months. It seemed like no one had even noticed I was gone.

I pulled my knees to my chest and picked at the vines that climbed the trellis overhead, ripping off leaves and stripping them down to their veins. I was wondering how I would possibly survive the whole next year, when Andrea Dutton came stumbling out of the trees.

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
A Novel
. Copyright © by Amanda Davis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Susan Orlean
This is a marvelous modern-girl odyssey, dark and comic and poignant and smart, that shows off Davis' wonderful prose and the freshness and wisdom of her wild storytelling.
Brady Udall
Amanda Davis has a wicked and inspired imagination, and her her first novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me, is just plain fabulous. This is a story full of extraordinary events told with extraordinary skill.
Jonathan Ames
This book is a circus Pygmalion — a spectacular tale of injury, heartbreak, and metamorphosis. Our young heroine — our fair lady — exists in a strange chrysalis of her own invention, until she is ready to wake from her dreams and her nightmares. Amanda Davis's prose is gorgeous and lucid, and the pace of her story-telling is one of ever-increasing emotional velocity, causing the reader to fall in love with her characters, and with her book.
Susan Richards Shreve
“This is such a good book—the voice is so engaging, heartbreaking and true.”
Elizabeth Strout
An utterly unique take on what it means to run away and join a circus. Filled with a marvelous array of characters, this is the story of recovery from trauma, and the triumph in finally integrating the soul and the self.
Michael Chabon
Amanda Davis writes prose that is precise, elegant and strong, and she tells a story that is at once harrowing and, strangely, filled with adventure.
Kate Christensen
I couldn't put it down…I LOVED it. I don't like anything, either. It's brilliant, sad, funny, amazing, original and a complete and utter page turner.
Michelle Chalfoun
“At the end of this rich and satisfying novel...I did not want to leave.”

Meet the Author

Amanda Davis was raised in Durham, North Carolina. She was tragically killed in a plane crash on her way to her childhood state where she was scheduled to promote her debut novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me, published in February 2003. She resided in Oakland, California, where she taught in the MFA program at Mills College. Davis also authored Circling the Drain, a collection of short stories. Her fiction, nonfiction, and reviews have been published in Esquire, Bookforum, Black Book, McSweeney's, Poets and Writers, Story, Seventeen, and Best New American Voices 2001.

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Wonder When You'll Miss Me 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of an overweight, unpopular teen-age girl who is gang-raped under the bleachers at the high school stadium and consequently has a total mental breakdown and loses her memory of the incident. After a year's hospitalization, she returns to the school as a thinner and more attractive girl. She is particularly friendly to a popular boy and notices that people are whispering whenever she is seen with him. In a sudden flashback she remembers that he was the one who held her down while she was being raped. She plots her revenge and one day during the lunch period she slashes him with an axe and flees the school to seek out a loyal male friend who has joined the circus. She begs to become employed by this circus and they finally agree to let her have the job of taking care of the elephants--this involves a lot of mucking up manure. Most of the book is involved with her life in the circus and all the misfits that belong. Even though I have never been particularly interested in circuses and carnivals, I found this book fascinating. It is also suspenseful (sp?)and one of those books you 'Can't put down.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reason I purchased this book back in the spring of 2003 was because I read the obit of Amanda Davis in the Greenville (SC) News. She was with her parents in a small private plane being piloted by her father, ironically traveling between cities for bookstore appearances to promote Wonder When You'll Miss Me, when the plane crashed in the mountains of North Carolina. I thought to myself as I read the obit that I wanted to see what fictional creation, what novel, this woman had brought to the world while alive because it would be her only one. And oh my goodness, how I was richly rewarded! I cross-referenced this novel in a similar review to The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman. Both are coming of age stories which feature teenage girls trying out their 'powers' for the first time. Faith Duckle is trying to understand the meaning of and ultimately shed the ghost that haunts her, just as Stella Sparrow tries to reconcile herself with her visions of death and demise. Amanda Davis may have lived on to create many more Hoffmanesque characters like Faith Duckle, but sadly we will never know the extent of her creative gift. We can only come to know and love Faith Duckle, and that we certainly do. We will wonder what other great stories Davis might have given the world just as Faith wonders when she will be missed by the world.
Saster More than 1 year ago
Dear Barnes & Noble. Who's minding the store? Do you just fling these things out to the first name you come to on whatever list? I haven't bought this book. I haven't read this book. It sounds like a good one, and I'd buy it but you have put an exorbitant fee on the flaming thing, so it looks as if I won't be reading it any time soon. Please make an effort to pay attention to what you are doing. Thank you. Carol A. Schmidt
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In Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis a fifteen year old named Faith Duckle is raped by some boys from her school underneath the bleachers during Homecoming. She is tormented and newly thin after being known as a fat girl, so she decides to get revenge. Her sweet revenge turns out to be not so sweet when she has to run away from home to the circus to find her friend Charlie after she realizes the police will be after her. Faith soon finds her place in the circus as Annabelle and trains to become and aerialist performer. Faith Duckle is a fifteen year old who is gone astray in the world after returning from a mental type hospital. She is now thin after being corpulent for so long. Sad and lonely she just wants to alleviate her mind after being raped during homecoming by her peers. Starling Yates is Faith's roommate at the hospital. Starling is always bright and full of life. Starling, however is fixated with dying and wants to die. She ends up killing herself. Charlie Yates is Starlings older brother who works with Faith at a restaurant called Clark's. He is gay and Faith knows more about him then she admits, like knowing how he saved Starling from her many suicide attempts. Faith later finds that Charlie has a serious drug problem and everything he appeared to be was a lie. "I put my chin on my knees. But I wasn't going to do that. Tomorrow the circus would load out and move to Gleryton and I would go with the show, And if someone managed to notice the strong blonde girl lugging equipment for the aerialists, then so be it. Whatever was going to happen would happen, but I didn't want to be afraid anymore. Let them judge me for what I did. I could pick out everyone one of those boys, and turn them in. Everyone." _ Faith Duckle This passage demonstrates the whole idea behind the book, that people should learn to accept who they are. Faith was constantly running in the mental and physical sense from things she was afraid of. It shows her defining moment in a way because she decides that she is not going to run anymore, she is going to live her life. Finally Faith can be free from herself and do as she pleases because she has learned to accept that things aren't going to be perfect and she needs to take some risks. Faith has finally stopped running. I strongly agree with the points in this book because people should learn to accept themselves and not to let others push them around, like Faith was pushed around. The only serious error in this book is Faith's choice to hurt Tony. I feel this part of the book is overly drastic and not necessary, she was planning on running anyway. This book has a new and unusual idea because Faith runs away to the circus. Most people say they are going to run away with the circus as a joke but in this book Faith lives out this idea in a realistic sense. This book relates to people's lives because everyone is a little bit insecure and hesitant to take risks. In this book you can see how taking a risk got Faith further in her life.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonder When You¿ll Miss Me is about a girl named Faith Duckle. When Faith was 15 she was fat and not well liked because she was that way. So when seven (7) guys took her under the bleachers at Homecoming, Faith felt liked and special. However, while under the bleachers, Faith was attacked by the boys. A year after the Homecoming incident and Faith lost a lot of weight. Faith may have lost all the weight, but she was still followed around by her old fat self. Faith got a job at Clark¿s restaurant and there she met Charlie, a person that she would see as her one and only true friend. She would lose him, then throughout the book she slowly but surely finds him again. After taking revenge on one of the boys that attacked Faith changed her image and had everyone, including the ¿Fat Girl¿ call her Annabelle. ¿Annabelle¿ ran away and ended up finding herself fighting the Fat Girl at one of the circus grounds in town. After being found rolling around in the dirt by one of the circus members, Annabelle is taken and then later asked to join the circus as a groom for elephants and horses. The book goes through Annabelle¿s adventures as a groom and her growth as a person while in the circus. Although Annabelle does not return home after the incident at her school, she does eventually realize that the circus will eventually move into her home state, and soon enough into her home town. As she prepares to face her past, Annabelle experiences another part of circus life as she goes from high school to high-wire. This book is a page turner and it gives a different look into a troubled teen¿s life and the different kind of adventure she takes to find out truths about herself. That is what makes Wonder When You¿ll Miss Me a great book for anybody to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just came from Mandy's funeral. She and her parents were killed in a plane crash on Saturday, March 15 2003. I hope that everyone realizes how lucky they are to have gotten the chance to read this wonderful novel and mourn the fact that it will be the only one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a high school girl is brutally abused at a homecoming football game, sent to a loony bin, then returns thin and haunted by the ghost of her formerly fat self. in this funny, thrilling, poignant tale, we watch faith duckle on her odyssey from fear to revenge, from home to highwire. in a story that moves deftly between the emotional and external (circus life especially) we see a rags-to-riches arc of the psyche. we follow faith on an intimate tour of depression, survival, suburban angst and circus antics as she travels in search of love, identity and freedom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book to bring on vacation, and I have to admit, I was very disappointed. I thought it was a very slow read and seemed very silly throughtout. If you are looking for something deep that has meaning, this is not the book for you.