The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts

A daughter’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, through life in a traveling sideshow and her mother’s illness

Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:
The trick is there is no trick.
You eat fire by eating fire.


Two journeys—a daughter’s and a mother’s—bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.

For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?

Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.

A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.

Title:The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts
ISBN:9780374158378
Format Type:

About Tessa Fontaine


    The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts Reviews

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    I received an advance reader copy from publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley.Tessa Fontaine was 30 when she was invited for a 5-month stint with America's last traveling sideshow, the Worl...

  • Sonja Arlow

    3.5 starsMany years ago, my aunt married a carnival mechanic.The marriage didn’t last long but while they were together I was given the opportunity to work at the carnival. As a 13-year-old getting ...

  • Kathryn

    I have to admit that when I won this book in a giveaway, I was not sure if I would like it. I put off reading it, but then I opened it and I was hooked.Tessa Fontaine runs away from her problems and j...

  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for my review. Two years after her mother experiences a devastating stroke and is still severely disabled, the author’s parents decide to take a ...

  • Keith Beasley-Topliffe

    Fascinating. Tessa Fontaine, a young woman (with an MFA in literature) joins World of Wonders, the last traveling sideshow, for their 2013 season--150 days of long hours, hard work, and performing as ...

  • Danielle

    This is a beautifully written personal story about facing one's fear while going through parent's illness and joining a traveling sideshow. You may think both stories don't intertwine but they do. Ms....

  • Lesley

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book. After her mother suffers from a debilitating stroke, Tessa decides joins a traveling sideshow. The story nicely parallels her mother's s...

  • Amy Morgan

    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. I absolutely loved reading this story. The author presents a good balance of her life before and during her time with the sideshow. She has a great...

  • Pam

    I just finished the best memoir I've read in years -- TheElectric Woman by Tessa Fontaine. It’s about a young woman who literally leaves the difficulties of her life behind to join the circus as a ...

  • Molly

    Usually I find memoirs by white women exhausting. Their fish-out-of-water stories strike me as exploitative, both of the reader and the people they encounter on their journeys to (insert eyeroll here)...