Appalachian Carnival.

Author:Schingler, Michelle
Position:Book review

S.M.Fernand (author); APPALACHIAN CARNIVAL; Edgewise Publications (Fiction: Literary) 17.00 ISBN: 9780985807078

Byline: Michelle Schingler

"Most people are afraid to take a chance with their lives," muses Walt Ryder, a carnival operator of unusual magnetism, in the early pages of S.M. Fernand's debut novel. That sympathetic recognition is part of what draws teenaged Annabelle Cory to him; in larger part, she's compelled by his believable-enough insistence that she's the girl of his dreams.

Annabelle's narration is enlivened by a mixture of colorful, unabashed colloquialisms and phrases she's gleaned from books. The novel follows her as she abandons the West Virginia coal town of her youth, where, despite her curiosity and beauty, she's at grave risk of becoming just another sad tale. When Walt offers her a chance to light out with the carnival, she eagerly accepts.

This break with convention is the first of many for Annabelle, who finds herself ravenous for new experiences -- any and all which might help her understand who she is, and what life holds for her. The Midway is happy to respond to her hunger. Annabelle finds her soul's kin amongst the carnies, folks whom the outside world thoughtlessly dismisses as "freaks," but who in actuality prove to be an enlightened bunch.

Isis, the bearded lady, is there to help with questions of spirituality; Lula, the fat lady, is a willing coach when it comes to love; and...

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