Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There's one born every minute, P.T. Barnum famously said, and yet this book makes it clear that he's every much a sucker as the rest of us. Chaotic and more interested in promotion than actually running his museum (or being with his family), Barnum's ability to provide New York with "wonder" in the 1800s was unparalleled. However, he is not the focus of the book, just the undercurrent to the lives we explore.
I don't think that the characters in the book actually existed, and the timeframe the book covers seems to collapse the actual 15 year existence of the museum. However, the lives of Ana (professional Giantess), Emile (taxidermist and self-declared caretaker to the living animals), the unnamed African tribesman and the other "wonders" certainly come alive as stand-ins for their real-life counterparts. The humiliation that the wonders feel as they participate in their own exploitation, the lack of access to Barnum and real control over their lives, and the ultimate camaraderie they attain is clear to all readers.
ARC provided by publisher.