Fontaine’s memoir is astounding, amazing, inspiring and a little bit terrifying ... Voice is crucial in memoir, and Fontaine’s is just right: trustworthy, intimate and thoughtful ... Fontaine has a great eye for detail, and she depicts the other circus performers with real affection — not as freaks, but as interesting and fully realized people ... Fontaine’s circus adventures are nicely juxtaposed against her mother’s long journey of recovery, as both women learn to overcome their fears and meet life’s challenges.
This is an assured debut that doesn’t shy away from the task of holding the ordinary and otherworldly in its hand, at once. It’s herein that the book’s power lies ... Fontaine is unafraid to write the ugliness — the imperfect care and love — that takes place between people, and the memoir is most 'electric' when it doesn’t shy from that imperfection ... There is, at times, an Orange Is the New Black feeling to The Electric Woman, with Fontaine as the Piper Kerman to the rest of the sideshow: Everyone else’s story is far more interesting, including an amazing anecdote involving a Chihuahua that I won’t spoil. The book is longer than it needs to be, and that is its main drawback. There’s the sense that Fontaine manages to distill other people’s stories more succinctly than her own ... The quiet beauty of this book lies in its ordinary, enigmatic human feats of interpersonal connection.
Throughout the circus narrative, Fontaine soberly recounts hospital visits with her mother in the Bay Area, her obvious love for her mother permeating each interaction like perfume. In this memoir that seamlessly balances grief, loss and wild-eyed determination, Fontaine makes a compelling case for using fear as an unexpected gift.