A Cabinet Of Wonders

Written by Renee Dodd
Review by Lisa Ann Verge

Narrated by a dwarf, a wolf-woman, conjoined twins, a tattooed man, and an individual of ambiguous sex – and a few more of God’s unique creations – this curious and compelling story details the lives of a traveling carnival’s sideshow freaks, billed collectively as Dugan’s Cabinet of Wonders. Cozy in their insular world, the group functions as well as any blood family. The elegant dwarf Dugan is their kindly patriarch, watching over the young and increasingly frisky conjoined twins. He carries a torch for the wolf woman, who after five years still mourns the death of her husband. The burly black photographer yearns to leave carnival life and start a business, and he aches, too, for the tattooed man, who made himself a freak and now is considering studying to become a preacher. But the year is 1927 and the world is changing. The movie business threatens the livelihood of traveling carnivals. Natural disasters plague the group. And as unique as these individuals are, they are afflicted by very ordinary troubles – anger, jealousy, ambition, and a yearning for love. Dugan, sick in his bones, struggles to keep this odd family together even as forces both inside and out tear it apart. Reminiscent of the 1990s novel Geek Love, A Cabinet of Wonders illustrates that the only freakish thing about self-proclaimed “freaks” is their appearance; inside, they ache and love and yearn just like any common rube.