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Fiction Review      
 

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
by Amanda Davis
William Morrow, 2003
Hardcover, $24.95 (259 pages)
ISBN: 0-688-16781-0
 
  Amanda Davis didn't get to enjoy the full experience of her first novel.  She was being labeled as an author to watch.  Unfortunately, Amanda Davis and her parents died in a small plane crash in the NC mountains while on book tour on March 14, 2003. 

Wonder When You'll Miss Me follows 16-year-old Faith Duckle, who is returning to high school in her small North Carolina town after spending several months in a mental institution for attempted suicide.  Her mental downfall began at homecoming, when eleven boys lured Faith under the bleachers with red punch and teasing comments.  Soon, she was being held on her knees as the boys stood taking turns filling her mouth.  She was seen as less than human because she was a "fat girl."  As Faith returns to high school as a much thinner teenager, she has a constant invisible companion called Fat Girl, a reminder of her former self.

Fat Girl can be comforting, but she is the one demanding revenge and puts the life-changing event in action.  Faith changes her appearance and escapes with a traveling circus.  She takes the name Annabelle Cabinet and becomes the elephant groom. 

The circus experience is all-encompassing for the reader, and unfortunately some stories are used as short scenes or as transition passages, causing a rich tale to be missed.  Annabelle becomes stronger in mind and body as she observes these nomads.  She sees that each is traveling alone with their own private hell even though they live in close proximity to others.  As Annabelle makes her leap as a training aerial performer, she sheds her past darkness.

Wonder When You'll Miss Me is a dark comedy, and Davis uses a sharp wit. The novel isn't over till the fat lady sings.

Wonder When You'll Miss Me is not a book for gentle readers.  Much of the first half of deals with violent episodes that some will find offensive.  That said, the second half deals with life in the circus and is a wonderful and knowledgeable work of circus life.  It could be Davis was trying to give the dark events that cause someone to run away from life.  There is also the stereotype of carnies as being perverts or strange.  In the end, Amanda Davis's debut novel is about second chances.  A chance to reinvent yourself, become stronger, and comfortable in your own skin.  Hasn't everyone wanted to run away to the circus?

 

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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