Author Elizabeth Gauffreau resurrects the forgotten childhood fantasy of running away to join the circus with a twist in her novel, Telling Sonny.
Set in America’s idyllic early 20th century, a time of outwardly polite courtesies and thoughtfulness, Telling Sonny follows a young girl’s tragic fall from respectability to a life of white-knuckled survival among society’s counter-culture of traveling vaudeville entertainers.
Young Faby Gauthier, fresh out of high school wonders what’s to become of her life when the annual vaudeville show comes to her home town of Enosburg, Vermont.
Despite the drab setting in the Enosburg’s Opera House, Faby, accompanied by her sister and best friend, Josephine, is captivated by that year’s cavalcade of acts especially a song and dance number done by ‘America’s Favorite Hoofer,’ a tall, lanky fella known by his stage name, Slim White.
Gauffreau’s attention to setting details and language throughout the novel is exemplary. Faby and Slim are a study of contrasts and Gauffreau does a great job of setting them apart not only by their personalities but also by showing their differences in social customs, colloquial expressions and behaviors. Along the way, Gauffreau entertains us with enlightening anecdotal observations about early 20th century American life in small towns as well as urban centers. All through the story I felt informed and captivated with Faby’s efforts to keep up with her thoughtless, but dashing beau during a perilous time in her life.
Telling Sonny will keep you engaged from the start and you’ll finish the story satisfied, not only with the novel’s surprising conclusion, but also for having learned about a unique chapter in American social history.