I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.
The stories in this collection revolve around women who were famous for a brief period of time. As the title suggests, they were “almost,” but not quite famous enough, to become household names. The first thing that struck me about these stories is that many of the women all do jobs or tasks that are usually reserved for men in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: riding motorcycles, racing speedboats, and painting nudes.
These women are daring and take risks and will not settle for loneliness, boredom or obscurity. When a woman wakes up in a hospital bed wondering if her grave injuries during a motorcycle crash were worth risking her life, she decides she cannot go back to living a lonely and dull life in eastern Maine.
The women in these stories also lead terribly sad lives and none of them really have happy endings; an illegitimate baby is discarded at a convent by her parents, an actress dies of an overdose and a reclusive painter is taken advantage of by her nurse. The story that I found the saddest is the first one in the collection in which conjoined twins are abandoned by their birth mother and taken in by a women who exploits them. The twins’ caregiver parades them around and makes them sing and dance and everyone treats them like outcasts. At the end of their lives, shunned by society and broke, they are forced to work long hours at a grocery store where they still get strange looks from the customers.
I also liked the fact that the author gives us a visual, as the stories are accompanied by a picture of each woman it describes. If you want a collection of stories that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you think about unusual women who strive to live outside of societal norms, then ALMOST FAMOUS WOMEN is a great read.
About The Author:
Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Almost Famous Women (January 2015) and Birds of a Lesser Paradise (March 2012) – both from Scribner, and both Indie Next selections. Megan was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and will receive the Garrett Award for Fiction from the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
Megan’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Best American Short Stories 2011, New Stories from the South 2012, McSweeneys, Ploughshares, One Story, Oxford American, The Kenyon Review, Narrative and elsewhere.
Raised in North Carolina, Megan now lives on a small farm in Vermont with her two daughters, veterinarian husband, and a host of rescue animals.