As Mabel Stark, the first female tiger trainer in circus history, is turning 80 in 1968, she begins to recount her flamboyant career. Committed to a mental hospital for rebelling against her husband, young Mabel escapes and joins the Great Parker Carnival as a belly dancer. She marries again and is rescued this time by a pal who owns a small circus where she learns to work with tigers when the show's animal trainer falls for her. She endures life's inevitable ups and downs, goes through more husbands, and eventually becomes a circus superstar with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, where she wrestled a 500-pound tiger. Hough based this book on details from Stark's journals and letters, weaving together fact and his fiction to produce a humorous yet compelling story. Betty Bobbitt's reading helps set the atmosphere for this entertaining tale. Owing to the adult nature of some of the content, this audiobook is recommended for appropriate collections.-Denise A. Garofalo, Astor Home for Children, Rhinebeck, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This ribald, rough-hewn debut novel by a prize-winning Canadian writer is based on the flamboyant career of Mabel Stark, arguably the greatest (certainly the greatest female) tiger trainer of all time. Recounted as Stark is turning 80 in 1968, the faux memoir follows her path to superstardom through the 1910s and '20s as she learns to tame tigers and men, and finally tours with the famous Ringling Brothers Circus. Stark, born Mary Haynie, is a teenage Louisville, Ky., nurse, when she is committed to a mental hospital after rebelling against her brutish husband's insensitivity. Aided by a smitten psychiatrist, she escapes to Tennessee, where she becomes Little Egypt, a headliner belly dancer with the Great Parker Carnival. Another marriage and another gig as a "cooch dancer" follow, until she is rescued at the age of 23 by Al G. Barnes, a carny pal, lately owner of a small circus. When the show's animal trainer falls for her, he teaches her how to work with tigers and a new career is launched. Famous for the act in which she wrestles Rajah, a 500-pound Bengal tiger she's raised from a cub, she is also known for her brazenness, multiple marriages ("My men. Whew. Had a slew of them") and black leather jumpsuit. Rich in the atmosphere of circus life, this graphic, slangy fictional reminiscence also offers some surprising, deft metafictional touches. Agent, Ron Eckel, Westwood Creative Artists. (Apr.) Forecast: Hough's debut is a natural sell to fans of Carter Beats the Devil and should attract an even wider readership if the film version-set to star Kate Winslet-comes off. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.