Sideshow, by Amy Stilgenbauer
Publisher: Interlude Press
Release Date: August 25, 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Abby Amaro wants to sing at La Scala Opera House, but she’s a good girl, and in 1957 good girls get married. Still, when she receives her first marriage proposal, she freezes, knowing the way her suitor makes her feel bodes trouble. When he won’t take no for an answer, she flees, joining up with a traveling carnival.
Thanks to a burlesque trapeze artist and the world’s saddest clown, Abby bides her time and fits in until she can rejoin the world she knows. She doesn’t expect a sideshow strongwoman named Suprema, who captures her imagination. As the carnival makes its way across the Midwest, Abby learns much more than she had ever imagined–about herself, about her identity, and, most importantly, about love.
Finding Your Home and Family
When I saw this book was coming out (Isn’t that cover totally lovely?), I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’d never heard about the author but lesbian historical fiction/romance in a carnival setting sounded so very appealing to me and I’m really happy that it was.
The author drew me in right from the first page with her engaging writing style and I took an instant liking to Abby, the main character from whose point of view the story is told. She’s lovely and kind and while she’s young, a bit shy, and still needs to figure out what she wants to do with her life and how, she’s actually a very open character who engages with the people around her and is not afraid to take action and a new course in her life.
I think the main focus of the book is on Abby learning who she is; what she wants to do, who she wants to love, and with whom she wants to share her life with. It takes her a while – and I do think that this was pretty realistic – but she finally realises it’s with her new-found family at the carnival and with Suprema, a girl she falls in love with while she’s there.
The romance is sweet and tentative and charmingly awkward in the beginning. I really enjoyed this part of the book, which takes a little bit of a backseat, all considering, as it’s more about Abby growing up and finding her future.
Characters, time and place come alive, and I loved the short snippets from her past that are sometimes strewn in between the chapters. I think it is well done and not distracting at all, since the scenes always fit to what is happening in the now. A nice little touch is the narration in present tense for these short episodes because that way they feel more separate from the rest of the story and you don’t get lost.
What I didn’t like as much is the in your face and several times written down message of doing what makes us happy. It is just too in-your-face and also, in a way, the same old same old. I think that the book is actually lacking a little bit of depth, or maybe too straight-forward. But everything that builds up the book – the characters, the setting of the carnival, Abby’s character development – is done very well and tapped the full potential.
I enjoyed Sideshow a lot and recommend it. I wish there were more stories like this and I personally really love carnivals 😀
Amy Stilgenbauer is a writer and archivist currently based in southeast Michigan. She is the author of the young adult novel, The Legend of League Park, and her short story, “The Fire-Eater’s Daughter,” was included in Summer Love: An LGBTQ Collection published by Duet, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press. When not working, she stays busy gardening, playing trivia, and keeping her cats away from her knitting.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.