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.
This story was wonderful. I adored getting to see a side of the 1950s that’s different than we typically get to see in fiction. The small town Midwest and traveling carnival side of life is amazingly well written and brings you into that time period as if you’re living it with Abby and her family and friends. They deal with problems that today might be trivial but were huge obstacles for them to overcome 60 years ago.
I loved how real Abby felt. She had her issues and idiosyncrasies that made her come alive on the page. She made my heart hurt with her past and dealing with discovering who she is and what will make her happy. The journey she goes on to finding love, happiness and the meaning of family is wonderful. Those “aha” moments were fabulous to see as she figured things out. Her love with Suprema is so sweet. They are so happy together but still a bit hesitant of how to navigate a relationship with their own individual hurts in the past. Those emotions leapt off the page.
I really enjoyed Suprema. Her story is a little slower to unveil but you can tell from the beginning her past is painful. Even if we don’t get to see any of the story from Suprema’s point of view, we still get to see her grow and blossom and it is amazing to see. She connects with those around her and shows emotions just a bit more. She is exactly what Abby needed and the support Abby didn’t know she was looking for.
I thought the tension around Frank was well written. How he worked hard to keep Abby under his thumb. Her fear due to him was palpable throughout the story. However, the way all of that wrapped up was a little too easy. Frank didn’t react how I expected him to in the final scene. Especially based on everything he did up to that point to get to Abby. Frank’s actions just didn’t seem plausible right at the very end. Though, I’m not quite sure how else that storyline could have ended.
I really enjoyed the cast of characters around Abby and Suprema. They were fascinating and I loved seeing how they helped both Abby and Suprema grow and fall in love. I want to go back and read Ruth and Constance’s story. Plus I enjoyed seeing two other characters get their own happy ending of sorts. Abby and Suprema together are wonderful. You can tell they’re going to work hard to keep their relationship going and be happy together.
Four and a half
I’m very excited to have Abby join us today. She stops by to talk about music. She shares her five favorite songs with us. Her selection is wonderful and I hope you get a chance to listen to some of the selections. Read and enjoy!
Picking a favorite song is almost impossible. Music is everything to me and songs mean so many different things. I’ve been lucky enough to learn many different kinds of music in my life too.
I’ve known about opera since I was a little girl and my Nonna Gaetana took me to see Caramela Cafarelli when I was just a little girl. My first song then should be a song from an opera. The first opera I heard was Norma and the most beautiful song form it is Casta Diva. In the context of the opera’s plot it is a prayer for peace. It is also, simply beautiful.
The other sort of music that has been a part of my life since I was a little girl is Sicilian folk songs. My parents both immigrated from Sicilian when they were young and those songs were a part of my daily life growing up. One that my mother sang all time while I was growing up, and one that has played a special role in my life, is called Si Maritau Rosa. It’s kind of a silly song about a girl who is watching all of her friends get married, while she remains unmarried. It’s funny how such a traditional song could bring me to the place that it did.
Growing up in Cleveland, it was hard to miss rock and roll, so of course “Rock Around the Clock” is one of my favorite, because, well, it has to be. We can argue for days about what version is best, if you want, though. Everyone knows Billy Haley and the Comets, but if you want me to bring my records we can compare them all.
Just before I left to join McClure’s Amusements, on my birthday, actually, I heard a song and it struck me to the core. I’ve always loved Buddy Holly, but this song especially meant a lot to me. The music was nice. It’s not often you hear a song with a celestina, but the lyrics even more so inspired me that someday something was coming that would be good for me, that love was on it’s way. That song will always be special to me and it is Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.”
Lastly, I think I’ll have to get sappy on you. Frankie Lymon and the Teenager’s “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” will always be one of my favorite songs. It was, the beginning of everything, you know, and I can’t talk about it any more or I’m going to blush.
Abby couldn’t remember falling asleep. She only remembered the dark night and how, outside the window of Della’s trailer, the rolling slopes of Eastern Ohio slowly flattened into the farmland of the western side of the state and faded into darkness. She didn’t say much during the trip, but her mind was spinning, unable to process what she had done.
Once, when she had been a little girl, barely older than Annette was now, her mother had taken her and Natale to visit their aunt in Chicago for a week. It had been a nice visit. They had embarked on the train with a great deal of ceremony, and Za Teresa had spoiled the pair rotten, loading them up with peach-shaped marzipan and pizzelle until they were both sick. She hadn’t left Cleveland for any extended period of time since. Oh, sure, she’d talked and dreamt about it. Nonna often wistfully mentioned taking a trip back to her girlhood home one more time now that the war was over and taking Abby along to look after her, and then, if her opera career took off as she had once hoped, she would be visiting all the great cities. In her scrapbook, clippings of Palais Garnier, La Scala, and The Met were decorated with carefully drawn hearts and hopeful stars and the scrawled word: someday. Still, she had never imagined that when she departed the Coventry neighborhood again, it would be in a burlesque dancer’s trailer.
Amy Stilgenbauer is a writer and aspiring archivist currently based in southeast Michigan. She is the author of the novelette series, Season of the Witch, as well as the Young Adult novel, The Legend of League Park. Her short story, The Fire-Eater’s Daughter, was included in Summer Love, an LGBTQ Young Adult collection published by Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press. When she isn’t writing, Amy enjoys all things bergamot and tries to keep her cats away from her knitting.
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