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Bearded Women: Stories by Teresa Milbrodt

Bearded Women: Stories

by Teresa Milbrodt

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This cover is absurd yet crazy awesome. It’s what initially made me want to read this novel. But the words within the story is what kept me reading. The blurb is pretty amazing too. This book is basically made up of “freaks” with stories to tell.

The Good: What I didn’t expect to find in this novel was such great writing. It was beautifully written but it had this strange, lyrical feel to it. The thing I loved about this novel was that even though each of the short stories contained a “freak” per se, their emotions and feelings of being different were relatable, tangible and so very real. These stories aren’t so much tales of being a Cyclops or having a beard… they are stories about people who are different and who are trying to come to terms with the reality of the outside world looking into their lives. They want to be recognized for who they are on the inside, but that’s not always possible and this novel attempts to explain why. I loved that the novel was comprised of short stories. It felt like it made the novel go by really fast. I also loved getting more than one POV from a “freak.” It was interesting the way the author was able to seamlessly move from story to story.

The Bad: There were some stories that seemed to linger a bit longer than necessary and didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have hoped. There were some stories didn’t end to my liking but that could be because I wanted more story or I wanted solid conclusion.

Overall, this book is a wonderful and touching look at what it means to be different. I give this book a B+ and recommend it for anyone looking for a strange, new book.

**I received this book free from the publisher through www.netgalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  hankesj | May 5, 2012 |
I'm not even sure how to categorize this book. It's beautiful and touching with just a touch of sarcasm and wit. This collection of short stories has to be the best I have ever read.
The description from NetGalley is this: Welcome to the contemporary Freak Show. A woman trying to have a child has a parasitic twin, an extra lower torso, and set of legs named Bianca—should she have "Bianca's Body" removed to improve her chances at conception? A bearded lady considers coming out of the closet about her hirsute nature, while carrying on a battle of wills with an overeating patron in "Mr. Chicken." A woman with four ears gets a chance to make extra money as the mascot of a tattoo parlour, and encounters a middle-aged, cookie-baking stalker who believes she is a sign that the end of the world is nigh. Meet the "freaks"—they're mothers, wives, and lovers: all of them trying negotiate a world that is quicker to stare than sympathize.
I figured it was up my alley. What I didn't expect was something so visceral and emotional. This is not a freak show but an expose of what it's like to live as someone who is different. The first story Bianca's Body was more than a tale about a woman with a parasitic twin. This nameless woman struggles with jealousy over that part of her body that seems to be more receptive to her husband, the pain of not being able to maintain a pregnancy and the identity of who she really is. It's the perfect introduction to Teresa Milbrodt's world.
The writing is a little odd which only adds to the work. Many of the characters are unnamed and the stories a brief snapshot of their lives. Some left me wondering and others felt complete. This is one I am glad to review and such a gem that will sadly be overlooked by those who would appreciate it most. ( )
  SDPogue | Nov 29, 2011 |
Come one, come all and see the macabre, the strange and the beautiful world of those the world deems freaks! From conjoined twins to bearded woman to people with extra body parts ranging from a whole extra torso and set of legs, to some extra ears, to a cyclops, a giantess, a Medusa – even a Butterfly Woman! You will thrill to the sensuous legs on Bianca’s Body – you will chill at the woman who spontaneously combusts when she becomes angry – you will fill with the woman who finds herself by joining eating competitions – you will wince with the pain of the girl with ichthyosis – you will gaze in awe at the holes in a woman’s hands! Step right up, step right up – the show is about to begin …

I really did enjoy these stories – it showed the human side of those the world would label freaks; it showed the sorts of things they did to survive and thrive in a world that sometimes thinks they should have been killed at birth. One thing that troubled me – but I think it was because the author wanted to make a point – was that so many of the stories didn’t provide a name for the “freak” - just called them things like “the cyclops” or “the three-legged man.” It dehumanized them. Then again, they tend to be dehumanized by the world, and, as I mentioned, I think that was a point that Ms. Milbrodt was trying to make. I highly recommend this amazing anthology. ( )
  Katyas | Oct 23, 2011 |
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