Orphaned at age four and raised by her black-clad, rosary-mumbling, preoccupied grandmother, Frankka discovered the ability to perform the stigmata as a way to attract her grandmother's attention. Now twenty-eight, Frankka's still using this extraordinary talent, crisscrossing the country with "The Death and Resurrection Show," a Catholic-themed traveling freak show and cast of misfits who have quickly become her new family. But when a reporter from the Los Angeles Times shows up to review the show, Frankka finds herself on the front page of the newspaper -- the unwitting center of a religious debate. Now unsure of who she is and where she belongs, Frankka disappears in search of herself and a place to call home.
ARIEL GORE is the author of We Were Witches (The Feminist Press, 2017), The End of Eve (Hawthorne Books, 2014), and numerous other books on parenting, the novel The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, the memoir Atlas of the Human Heart, and the writer’s guide How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness in January 2010.
The idea I always remember from this is: “You’re given a mythology in this life, the way you’re given a body, a family, a country. You can reject it if you like - starve it, laugh in its face, run away into exile - but it’s still your mythology. There’s always the chance for redemption.”
Also, I remember every book someone borrowed from me and didn’t return. I want my copy of this back, dammit.
I think the main reason I liked this one is because it's different. I have never before read a story about a traveling religious freak show. It's primarily focused on Frankka, a young woman who learned at an early age that she can exhibit the stigmata (bleeding from her palms) at will (though only when she's really hungry. Rather than seeing it as a special kind of miracle, she sees it as a trick to perform as part of the show. Frankka makes light of her "gift," but deep down, she's a true believer. She just needs to figure out exactly what it is she believes in.
The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show is about Frankka, a lapsed Catholic with a rather peculiar psychic ability: while fasting, she can concentrate on her wrists and make them bleed. For seven years she lives on the road with a performance troupe that includes a drag queen who levitates while dressed like a Catholic nun, a fortune teller and former battered wife with a small child, a fire-breather, and a bearded woman. They rarely stay in the same town or city for a week, and satirizing the Christian religion means they sometimes encounter hostility from fundamentalists (including the “God Hates Fags” picketers whom I frequently saw in Kansas). Meanwhile, Frankka has very realistic and moving flashbacks to psychological traumas from her childhood and youth.
Normally I avoid books that are from a Xian perspective, after dwelling in the Midwest for most of my life and experiencing a great deal of harassment from smug, self-righteous, phallocratic, Goddess-rejecting monotheists and therefore developing a great deal of aversion.
However, I decided to read The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show because Ariel Gore impressed me at a couple of author readings. To my relief, this book did not handle Xianity in a way that made me want to hurl chunks: instead, the narrator is very critical of the patriarchy in organized Catholicism and aware that goddesses such as Brigit were taken and turned into saints. The book goes on to show that even Christianity--and dare I saw Catholicism--can involve genuine spirituality, when it is in the mystical tradition rather than the way it is practiced as an organized religion. Frankka has a hobby of writing her own versions of the lives of saints, each a mystical individual. If only they were typical.
Well...I liked this book. I think it was very much written in Gore's voice, similar in tone and theme to "Atlas of the Human Heart". I didn't like it as much, though. The main character, Frankka, was intentionally shrouded and hard to get to know, and you only got brief, stereotypical glances at the other members of the traveling troupe. The parts I enjoyed most were Gore's Saint stories - she boiled the life stories of several of the more notorious saints into quirky, brief little stories that really captured the spirit of what they stood for in their lives and why people continue to pray to them. (I'm not a scholar of saints in any way at all, but the ones I did know about before the book validated most of Gore's stories' facts..)
It was a fast, sometimes funny, sometimes annoying, sometimes heartbreaking read. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys Gore's writing in any capacity, or who likes to read about side shows, Catholicism, or one girl's search for her own theological meaning in life.
I very much liked this one quote about 'home' - "Barbaro laughs. 'Of course I become tired. Home is a place you become tired of, but it is also a place that holds you. You can leave it if you like. Your family will miss you, but they will allow you to go without protest. They know, as you know, that you will return one day, and when you do, you will not be a stranger. That is the beauty of home.'"
I loved all of the stories about the saints. The characters were fascinating. It really left me wanting more story line. As for Ariel Gore, I could quote her all day. She has an amazing way with words: "If you've abdictated your right to create your own life story, vow to take it back. If you're ruled by your posessions, give them away; by a toxic lover, diplomatically take your leave; by addictions, wean yourself with compassion, and if that doesn't work, go find a quiet shelter on a mountaintop, far from liquor stores and dealers. Welcome angels as you breathe through your parade of demons. When you've finally cleared your head-after thirteen hours or thirteen years-descend from the mountain and do your work in the world."
For this reason, I can't wait to get my hands on her next book.
I really like Ariel Gore so she gets my rose colored glasses (although not an extra star--I'm stingy with those stars). Traveling Death is a story about a woman who learns to manifest the stigmata to inspire her miserably devout and depressed grandmother to get up off the couch and get food for their empty cabinets. When we take up the story she has joined with a motley crew and performs nightly in a modern-day traveling roadshow. While the whole arch of the story doesn't go anywhere profound, the book is sprinkled throughout with fun re-tellings of saint stories and the a kind of fresh irreverence that you might expect if you mixed Catholic dogma with the world of transvestites, hippies, bearded women, punks and liberals in this decade.
The main character of this book -- the narrator -- is a 7 year member of a traveling show that presents acts that connect to the Biblical stories and beliefs of death, resurrection, and the meaning of our existence on this earth. Saxophones are played. A man ascends (he presents as a woman) the summit. Someone sings. and our main character rises her arms to reveal the stigmata.
Unless she's eaten that day. Then, it won't work.
The time flies by, the performers interact, the money is tight, the life is interesting...until a bored reporter from the NY Times publishes and article about it all, and the audiences change from those who seek entertainment (and, perhaps, a small boost onto the good side of life) to those who seek righteousness, either by finding their saint or by killing her as a sinner. It's terrible.
Her story parallels many Biblical stories: life, the Call, the time spent alone....etc., and it's told by weaving the narrative with re-tellings of the lives of some of the Saints.
I don’t even know how to review this book because I have absolutely no understanding of it whatsoever. Guys, I don’t like harshly judging books, but this is among the worst books I’ve completed in a really long time. I just don’t get it.
The book is about a band of traveling performers with some unique talents - talents that end up turning the religious world topsy turvy, labeling them either Saints or Sinners. I thought it was going to be great. Maybe I didn’t get it because of all the religion - it talks a lot about the different Saints and how they got their sainthood. Maybe I didn’t get it because it was jumping around in time, and telling various stories, and was written in short segments. I dunno, but I do know that I don’t recommend this. It’s a headache waiting to happen.
The only reason it got two stars, is because there were a few really powerful lines, such as “I do not fear Satan half so much as I fear those who fear him,” and “Sometimes it is right to battle death, but sometimes death has its reasons.”
I can’t get over the fact that Ariel Gore weird this book in three weeks. It feels very well researched, and as a recovered catholic myself I really enjoyed the protagonist. The last 20 or so pages lose a bit (I won’t include a spoiler here, but it’s just a bit too much) however overall a great and quick read. One short afternoon poolside was all it took to tackle this one as it moves at such a rapid pace.
Standard enough personal struggle and redemption story that's framed within an old-school, saint-heavy catholic mythology, with some interesting aside stories about said saints, though I can't help but wonder if I've missed some greater depth for not being versed in or sharing the faith.
Intriguing concept. Witty & captivating. It is written in such a cynical, dry way, but it is still filled with hope somehow. So much so that although it is poking fun at everything, you just want and have to believe!
i wanted this to be better than it actually was. i think i also wanted it to be longer than it actually was, which could have been the problem. okay, so the story is, there's this girl who manages to give herself stigmata through the power of her mind or something. she doesn't seem to be especially religious, although she clearly believs (in a kind of catholicism, i think). there's some issue where maybe her grandmother (who is her guardian) thinks she's evil because of the stigmata or something, so she runs away & joins the circus. it's a kind of weird religious-exploitation circus, based around this girl & her stigmata. i can't for the life of me remember what any of the other performers do, but there aren't many of them. it's like a five-person circus. & stigmata girl falls for one of other performers & i think maybe she gets knocked up? you'd think i would remember this better. the problem is the same problem i have with all books that include religious references--it's like my brain turns slippery & the salient details slide right off. goddamn this life-long atheism! anyway. the issue i had (besides all the religious references, which were pretty obviously ariel gore's way of working out her status as a lapsed catholic or something, & therefore just a little bit dull) was that the book just kind of ended. without any clear explanation of what had happened to any of the characters. the circus eventually dis-bands (i think stigmata girl can't do her stigmata trick anymore once she is pregnant or in love or whatever, & the circus struggles financially before finally dis-banding) & i, for one, wanted to know what the hell happened to everyone. it's like ariel gore had one story thread in her: stigmata girl. & to hell with everyone else. it was kind of unsatisfying.
The title and cover of this book caught my eye initially. Inside the book, I was intrigued by the Catholic figurines before each new chapter as well as the periodic appearance of stories of several of the saints. The idea of a Catholic-themed traveling "freak show" consisting of various kinds of misfits also convinced me that this book just might be a good read.
After reading this book, I am not disappointed. Ariel Gore writes with humor and honesty. She tackles with grace the themes of belief and doubt, personal growth, and the journey of finding home and living authentically. The structure of the book works very well in telling the story of the main character, Frankka or Saint Cat, and her troupe.
The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, switches between the present and past. It mainly tells the story of Frankka but the reader learns a little of the others and their life journeys as well. The stories of the saints are placed at times in book that seem to enhance the depth of the past and present lives of the characters. I particularly enjoyed the stories of the saints for their creative take and added material for reflection. If you are looking for a fun and thoughtful book that has some religious themes in it, try reading this one.
I also enjoyed the Plus feature in this edition. Gore's short history of the stigmata as well as the questions she asks in the Reader's Group Guide are excellent resources. The author interview is short but fun. She likes coffee better than tea and so do I.
The fact that Frankka is able to spontaneously display the stigmata is interesting enough for a book; the fact that she uses extreme hunger to manifest it is even better; but, that she does it as part of a traveling troupe makes it darn near impossible NOT to read.
There are several interesting aspects to the way the book is written. First of all, the first page of each chapter has a statue of a saint at the top of the page. While I was able to identify some and not others, I found myself wondering if the saint used at the beginning of the chapter related to the content of that chapter. In addition, some of the status are facing the reader and some are turned so that their backs face the reader. I also found this interesting.
Secondly, Frankka writes lovely stories about saints. After cross-referencing a few of these, I found them to be accurate, complete with interesting facts found only after looking at several reference sites. The stories are written in a notebook which she misplaces in her journeys, but she continues to write the stories on scrap pieces of paper and napkins.
Other members of the troupe are interesting, but are by no means a main part of the story. This is all about Frankka and her journey.
Favorite quotes: •Sometimes it is right to battle death, but sometimes death has its reasons. p60 •I hate it when that happens -- when something that seemed to important just a few days or hours earlier suddenly loses its meaning. p176
I set out reading this book wanting for entertainment, I don't read a whole lot of fiction. What I got was a deeper understanding of a side of Catholicism I hadn't delved into before. My mother's family is "recovering" Catholic turned Protestant so I never had the opportunity to learn much about the saints. I never had to go to confession. The saint stories reminded me of the multiple deities of my own Paganism, so I related to them in that way. This furthered my appreciation of Catholicism and how easily a Pagan people could be swayed to join the church. I liked the book and felt drawn to finish it in only a few days. I don't have spare time lying around to be reading a book, so this says something. I found myself walking around the house with the book open in one hand, catching bits of story line as I loaded the dishwasher and found snacks for the kids. I love the language of the story but felt wanting for more depth. The story could have been taken further, delving deeper into Frankka's relationships with the crew. She could have revealed a more emotional response to her present life in addition to her emotions regarding her childhood. Overall, though, I like Ariel Gore's work and am now on the lookout for a copy of Atlas of the Human Heart.
it's really tempting to give this 4 stars because the saint stories are so wonderful. it's best they're peppered through the book -- an entire book dedicated to these vignettes would probably be a little dry -- but every time i saw a new saint story i internally squeeed.
there are several interesting characters here, but we never learn too much about any of them except frankka. i wish the book had been a little longer, to explore these characters a wee bit more. and frankka -- oh, we learn about her. but never, anywhere in the book, do i feel true passion from her -- passion for life, even passion over faith, family, her gift.. in the end, i think this is what keeps her distant, as other reviewers have mentioned. we learn so very much of her thought processes and what she sees in the world, but never what truly moves her, other than inertia and a vague sense of duty.
i'm sure that was intentional, by gore, but in the end it left me feeling a little meh.
although this novel revolves around catholic religious themes, it's a great book for anyone who needs something to make them feel as though life is really worth it again. the story line is separated into three quite separate parts: there's the present day predicament that's occuring at the present time the story, then there's the past that's gradually revealed, and then the main character, Frankka, writes these stories about the saints and their lives, how it lead to them becomming a saint, and these are incorporated throughout the text. this kept the book moving along pretty quickly. it's a book about a lost soul trying to find meaning and reason in life again. Well written, but if your mind is somewhere else while you're flipping through it, it can get confusing. all in all, if you're going through a rough time, this book should definately be on top of your to-read pile!
"Everyone has to have a strategy, don't you think? The question is...........is it a war strategy, or a love strategy?"
Frances Catherine, a.k.a. Frankka, is a lapsed Catholic who has the extraordinary ability to perform the stigmata. She exhibits this talent as a cast member of the traveling "Death and Resurrection Show"---a Catholic themed cabaret.But when Frankka finds her photo and story on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, she is no longer sure of herself, and she feels compelled to run and hide.......
I have eclectic taste in reading. I like the quirky, the obscure the subversive; writing that explores life's absurdities. And so THE TRAVELING DEATH AND RESURRECTION SHOW was a great find. Ariel Gore( whose own life would make a fascinating book) has written an affecting novel about longing, belonging, love/hate, forgiveness, and acceptance.
I loved this book! One of the best I've read in a long time! Interspersed throughout the text are stories of saints, told in modern language and with a quirky, modern twist. First person, this book takes the reader straight into the heart of an orphan who learned to manifest the stigmata. She travels with a band of performers with equally mysterious gifts. The plot unfolds and draws us into their world of being on the road, sleeping in hotels, and performing the strange and compelling Traveling Death and Resurrection Show. The back of the book has an article about stigmata and an interview with the author. She seems like a really fascinating person. Her dad was a rebel Catholic priest. Instead of going to high school she wandered around Europe. I'm really glad I read this.
of course this book makes me want to go devour a book about the saints. i guess the trouble is finding one that makes them sound half as interesting as ariel does. i have to say that this is the first source that has ever made the saints seem human and approachable although i know that is the whole point of them in the first place. i loved the rag tag troupe of characters - my kind of freaks. i loved dorothy. she resonated with the part of myself that wants to give everything away and feed the hungry. i suppose she is the modern day version of a saint in the story. i absolutely love the the idea at the end where she cannot bleed anymore because she made her own dinner - fishes and loaves and wine - and healed her own hunger.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This book had a really great premise. Orphaned girl teaches herself the stigmata to get her extremely religious grandmothers attention. As she gets older she travels around with a crew and performs the “Death and resurrection, show” until the media gets involved and she must question the meaning of her life. I like the story, although I didn’t really care for any of the characters other then “Frankka” the main character. I really felt like it had all the parts for something really big and moving to happen but in the end I felt like the buildup was inflated and a bit disappointing. I really liked the author’s knowledge of Saints and how she incorporates them into the story.
I found this book to be a quick read, and not a difficult work to tackle, conceptually. Honestly, if I hadn't been experiencing my own spiritual renewal at the time I was reading this, it may have been more of a "pleasant lark" than a moving read. It's all about the timing.
The saint stories were my favorite sections. The voice behind the writing was convincing and the stories were re-written humorously but rather poignantly, as well.
All in all, it was a good book for me to read, though it is difficult to say if I could see it having a similar effect on my friends (or others I would generally recommend books to).
As long as she is hungry enough, Franka can bleed at will from her palms. A trick to gain the attention of her devout Catholic grandmother, who raised her, Franka now is a part of a traveling alternative circus. The raggedy group has run a DIY tour for seven years, but when a reporter prints that Franka truly has stigmata, the attention of religious nuts propels her out of the rut she’s in and on a sort of spiritual quest. I would have liked a longer book—more and deeper details about her grandmother and the characters she is in the show with—but the book is interesting enough to hold your attention as you watch her come to terms with faith and reality.