Opening in Cleveland, Ohio in 1957, Sideshow is an extension of the universe first introduced in Amy Stilgerbauer’s The Fire-Eater’s Daughter. Abby has been training in opera, but she finds a peace when she is working at a local diner. As the eldest daughter in a large Italian family she and her brother are doing their best to support their younger siblings as well as their elderly Nonna. While she often sees young lovers canoodling in the diner, after breaking up with her boyfriend Frank she doesn’t long for love and when he suddenly appears insisting that she marry him she finds herself looking for an escape in the traveling circus that has come to town.
As Abby’s spends more time in the sideshow she begins to open herself up and try to understand the people around her. When Della, a woman in the show who called Abby’s brother Natale her Cleveland Sweetheart, sets Abby up on a blind date she realizes that each person she is traveling with has their own sad story. Through a number of brief flashbacks we learn what pushed Abby to break up with Frank and a connection she had with a female friend back in Cleveland that could have been something more. In a moment of emotional strain, Abby finds herself in the wrong trailer and face to face with Suprema, the strongwoman in the show. Something about this woman inspires Abby to trust her and she is the first person that she chooses to share her story with. After that the moments between the women begin to take on a romantic tone as Abby finally finds herself thinking she could be open to love.
Sideshow is not just a romance, but also a story of finding yourself when you allow the pressures surrounding you to fade away. Abby struggles to express herself and to even just survive in her day to day life because she feels a constant pressure to be something else. Her grandmother wanted her to be a famous singer and to marry, at least she always perceived it that way, and her inability to live up to these dreams leaves her hiding inside of herself. As she slowly become more comfortable around the people in the show and as she begins to understand her feelings for Suprema, she begins to breakout and find herself. Not only is she working through perceptions that have molded her, but we also learn why Suprema is a performer and why her story is said to be so said early on in the book. Their budding relationship allows both women to truly be free and to embrace happiness. Sideshow is a wonderful book that you will breeze through. Each of the characters is complexly made and has their own full and rich story that benefits that larger narrative. You can purchase your copy of Sideshow today.