Continuing with my theme of circus-inspired stories, this week’s new read is Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson. Like last week’s recommendation, Carlson sets her book in the strange and wonderful world of showman P.T. Barnum, this time in 1840s New York City. Barnum arrives in New York and purchases a natural history museum, which he proceeds to fill with the curiosities that will later become part of his travelling circus. The story centers around an eight-foot tall giantess named Ana Swift and Emile Guillaudeu, the taxidermist at the museum. If you enjoy historical novels, especially the history of Manhattan Island, this book may be for you. It promises lots of historical details, engaging characters, and the emotional highs and lows of the human experience. The release date for Among the Wonderful is August 2.
Advance praise for Among the Wonderful:
“A vivid and fascinating piece of literary Americana, AMONG THE WONDERFUL brings nineteenth century New York brilliantly to life on the page. Carlson’s sure-handed debut is chock-full of big themes and characters who will stick with you long after you set the book down.” — Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here
“Making the odd ordinary and the ordinary odd is the business of this novel, and in that sense, Among The Wonderful transcends the limits of storytelling and plunges confidently into the realm of ideas. Is objective inquiry into the natural world possible for mere mortals? Are we part of nature, or outcasts, condemned to despise and feel threatened by anything we don’t recognize? Why is the freakish so perversely fascinating, and what constitutes the limit of the ordinary? These questions arise . . . through the increasing desperation of the characters’ interactions as they struggle to stay afloat in a leaky, fragile and ultimately doomed enterprise. Stacy Carlson’s ability to render this hallucinogenic scene in realistic detail is really something of a marvel in itself.”
– Valerie Martin, Winner of the Orange Prize for Property
“What a pleasure it was to enter Phineas T. Barnum’s fabled American museum, accompanied by tour guide extraordinaire Stacy Carlson. Among the Wonderful is a smart, big-hearted novel about the desires, difficulties, hopes and fears of the museum’s remarkable residents. I enjoyed every page.”
— Karl Iagnemma, author of On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction