Heartbreaking if not flawless novel debut by Davis (stories: Circling The Drain, 1999) about a severely traumatized girl struggling to recover her sanity and self-esteem.
From time immemorial, little boys have dreamed of running off to join the circus—and it stands to reason that little girls must have similar fantasies. At 15, Faith Duckle may not have been a girl, and at nearly 200 pounds she certainly wasn’t little. But she certainly was innocent, and totally unable to manage the shock of being gang-raped by a group of high school hooligans under the bleachers during the annual Homecoming game. Some months after her assault, Faith took an overdose of tranquillizers and nearly killed herself. She then spent almost a year in Berrybrook, a mental institution where she slowly put her life back together—and lost 60 pounds. She then went back to school but found that the ordinary routines of teenaged life were now too juvenile for her. One of her few friends was Charlie, who was dating a member of the Fartlesworth Circus, which was just then passing through town. Charlie introduced Faith to his friends in the sideshow, who forged a kind of misfits bond with her and allowed her to join them as they toured the hinterlands of the Deep South. Accompanied everywhere by the Fat Girl (the ghost of Faith’s former self), Faith cautiously allowed herself to become a part of this initially alien but eventually quite welcoming world, and worked her way up the ranks from grounds crew to trapeze artist. And once she found herself secure in her new life and new world, she began to make plans for getting back at the people who nearly destroyed her years before.
The story rambles somewhat and takes time to cohere, but then it manages to express the unutterable anguish of a child cast into an adult world of hatreds and cruelties that ought to be fatal but walk away intact.