"Renee Dodd has achieved something wondrous...she has taken characters we tend to shun as 'other' and made them into ourselves by involving us in their passion, their pain, and their vulnerable, hopeful laughter. A great debut!" -- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of The Mistress of Spices
"It’s a blessing to find any novel these days this ambitious and original... the prose is both elegant and robust, the storytelling both subtle and vivid, and the scale of it both epic and intimate. Finding the humanity in the denizens of a circus freak show isn't as unusual as it used to be, thank God, but doing it with such compassion, wit, and sensuality is remarkable in any era. Make no mistake about it: A Cabinet of Wonders isn't a sideshow: it’s the main attraction." -- James Hynes, author of Next and The Lecturer's Tale
From 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.)
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