Renee Dodd’s A Cabinet of Wonders, published in 2006, is a masterful first novel. Every character, and there are many, is unique, not heard from in literature before. It’s a book set in sideshow and circus “freak shows.” The humanness of the inhabitants of this novel is magnetic: teen Siamese twins, Molly and Faye; the erotic appeal of Saffron, the wolf girl (hair covered); Alex/Alexandra, the seductive hermaphrodite; and the carnies and rubes. The year is 1927. It could easily be 1827 or 2027 for the issues raised. Outsiders, hip, in-the-know, human frailty, the pain of love, the joy of love. Renee Dodd has transformed the freaks we love to hate, to laugh at, and to squirm at the sight of, into real people who live lives that are more appealing than those of everyday, boring suits. Colorful would be an understatement of this intriguing cast. To take on the responsibilty of creating elegance and intimacy where most outsiders feel fascination, fear and repugnance is a mighty task. Renee Dodd achieves it.
When I finish reading a book, there are usually a few sticky-notes hanging out of pages where I want to remember the author’s use of a word or unusual turn of a phrase. My copy of A Cabinet of Wonders has about 25 of those little sticky-notes peeking out at me.
A brilliant read. Bravo to Renee Dodd. Can’t wait for her second novel.