The Greatest Show: Stories
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The Greatest Show: Stories

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  34 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Fire sweeps along the wall of a circus tent while inside thousands of people enjoy a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey matinee. Within minutes, flames consume the canvas and vast sections collapse, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

Inspired by the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire, the interconnected stories in Michael Downs's The Greatest Show explore the afterm...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by Louisiana State University Press
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Gerry LaFemina
Narratively intriguing and complicated, this book of interlinked stories has the scope of a novel without any of the continuity of plot or sensibility. A lovely and interesting book.
Valerie Hartman
“What difference would one day make, one day away?”

Ania asks herself, and slips two circus tickets in the waistband of her skirt.

The Greatest Show collects ten poignantly crafted stories that showcase the difference one day can make. Connected by the 1944 circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut, the powerful characters take center stage in stories spanning six decades.

The collection opens with Ania, the story of an immigrant housekeeper and her young family. With her husband, Charlie, overseas figh...more
Linda Mclean
The Greatest Show will have you wishing for an encore. Downs imagines the lives and adventures of survivors in the aftermath of an unimaginable tragedy. This collection paints a lifetime of adventures for a handful of characters which are connected by their New England town, and the ways they learn to cope with survival and loss surrounding a circus fire in 1944. The characters’ spirits of survival and resilience as they move on, as well as the complicated and intricate relationships they develo...more
In The Greatest Show, Michael Downs delivers exactly what I look for in a book of fiction: gorgeous writing and imperfect characters I can care about.

His book is a collection of linked stories inspired by the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. Although the fire was an actual event, the characters are entirely fictional, as Downs imagines how they were each directly or indirectly affected by the fire and its aftermath.

I’m partial to linked stories and novels in stories because not only do you get to...more
Ron Tanner
Michael Downs’s debut collection, The Greatest Show, offers ten subtly stirring stories that illuminate the lives of a large cast of characters, all of whom share one thing in common: they were touched -- sometimes tragically, sometimes tangentially -- by the infamous Hartford circus fire of 1944. These are quiet stories, in the tradition of Winesburg, Ohio, and their inter-relations, as characters return and cross into the lives of other characters, give the collection the dramatic weight and c...more
Casey Hudson
Inspired by the 1944 Hartford Circus Fire, this collection of interwoven vignettes centers around a fictional Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey matinee fire, which engulfs a full tent of performers and observers.

The stories, raw and insightful, peek inside the lives of people who, directly or indirectly, learn more about themselves because of one devastating event. Love, adulthood, parenting. Relationships, familial and romantic, are explored, and Downs shows them all to his reader from a...more
This collection of linked stories was excellent. Each has something to do with people involved in a circus fire in Hartford, CT during World War II; some connections are very close (the woman and her son who attended); others much more distant (the woman who falls in love with that son year later, or the wife of the brother of a woman who was killed). I was incredibly impressed with Downs' character development in every story, and though I kept putting it down and coming back to it after long pe...more
Michael Downs has constructed a novel of interconnected short stories centering on the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944. He explores big issues through small moments -- a touch of a hand, a look, a visit not made to a dying parent -- keeping you guessing and turning pages as characters reappear in his stories. The characters are compelling and lovable with no easy answers for any of them. It is a story of loss and regret, hope and resurrection, memory and forgetting. I read it all in a day and I wil...more
I read one and a half of the stories but didn't finish. Partly my fault because I thought it would be about the circus (based on the title and cover illustration) but it's actually about what happened to someone who went to a circus performance where an accident occurred and all the subsequent interactions in her life.
(Date finished is when I decided not to go back to this book.)
Patricia McNair
Michael Downs does remarkable things with this book. The linked stories overlap in wonderful ways, allowing us to know more and more and more about characters we have come to know and to care deeply for. The writing is gorgeous; Downs can turn a phrase and make it shimmer. I expect we will be hearing about this book for sometime to come.
This is a great book by a Towson University professor. It has great character development.
Jill Luberto
I love anything to do with the Hartford Circus. Great storytelling, and point of view.
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Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Michael Downs won third-place in an all-comers writing contest at Naubuc Elementary School for his story "The Day the World Went Poof." Since then, he's written everything from homemade comic books for friends to newspaper reports on college basketball games to reviews of restaurants that serve too much fried food. When he studied literary writing, he was fortunate t...more
More about Michael Downs...
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