Wonder When You'll Miss Me: A Novel

Wonder When You'll Miss Me: A Novel

by Amanda Davis


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At fifteen, Faith Duckle was lured under the bleachers by a bunch of boys and brutally attacked. Now, almost a year later, a newly thin Faith is haunted by her past and by the flippant, cruel ghost of her formerly fat self who is bent on revenge.

Faith eventually turns to violence for retribution, forcing her to flee home in search of the only friend she has — a troubled but caring busboy who is the lover of a sideshow performer — and to tumble into the colorful, transient world of the circus. But as she dives headfirst into a world of adult passions and dreams, mercurial allegiances, and exhilarating self-discovery, Faith must also face some disturbing truths about herself and the world around her.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060534264
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/16/2004
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 7.92(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Amanda Davis was raised in Durham, North Carolina. She was tragically killed in a plane crash on her way to her childhood state where she was scheduled to promote her debut novel, Wonder When You'll Miss Me, published in February 2003. She resided in Oakland, California, where she taught in the MFA program at Mills College. Davis also authored Circling the Drain, a collection of short stories. Her fiction, nonfiction, and reviews have been published in Esquire, Bookforum, Black Book, McSweeney's, Poets and Writers, Story, Seventeen, and Best New American Voices 2001.

Read an Excerpt

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
A Novel

Chapter One

At school I was careful not to look like I watched everything, but I did. The fat girl fell into step beside me. She had a handful of gumdrops and sugar on her chin.

"There are all kinds of anger," she said. "Some kinds are just more useful than others."

A locker slammed behind us. I tried not to speak too loudly, because no one except me saw her. "I'm not angry," I whispered.

"Saying you're not angry is one kind," she said. "Not very useful at all, though."

I ignored her and brushed hair out of my eyes. There were days when she was a comfort and days when she was a nightmare. I had yet to determine what kind of day this would be.

We made our way outside. The fat girl had stringy brown hair and wore a blue blouse that was spotted and stained. She sucked on a Fudgsicle as though the autumn day was blissful and warm, but I was freezing. We pressed ourselves against the courtyard wall to watch the crowd file by. When I turned my head she followed my gaze and patted my shoulder.

"Don't get your hopes up, Faith," she said. "Sweetie, I'm telling you, that is never going to work out."

She was talking about Tony Giobambera, who had dark curly hair all over his body and smiled with his mouth but not with his eyes; who walked slowly, like a man with a secret.

I said, "You never know."

She said, "Actually, I do know." Then she sucked off a big piece of chocolate.

Tony Giobambera settled on his rock and lit a cigarette. I followed the fat girl to a place where we could watch him. He smoked like the cigarette was an extension of his ropey arm and rough hand. When he leaned back and blew a stream into the sky, I watched the pout of his lips, the black curl that fell over one eye. Then Tony Giobambera smiled in our direction and I wanted to disappear.

"Nothing like a little attention to send you over the edge," the fat girl said.

"What would you do?" I said. "I mean I don't think you'd do anything different."

"I'd think about getting even," she said. "I'd think about making something happen."

Instead I found a better place on the grass where I could see him but pretend to stare off into space, thinking about more important things than how much I would give up just to have Tony Giobambera run his finger along my cheek and my throat again.

- - -

It was after what I did, the long summer after I'd shed myself completely and was prepared to come back to school like a whole new person, only inside it was still me. It was at an end-of-the-summer party a week before school started. I'd walked there from my house and the Carolina night was humid and heavy. I sang softly to myself, thinking of how different I looked, of what it would be like to walk into a party in normal-person clothes bought from a normal store.

I smoothed the front of my new sleeveless green blouse. I could hear the party behind the big white door. I took a deep breath and rang the bell, but nothing happened.

I leaned over a little and through the windows I saw people draped over couches and moving in the dark. I rang the bell again, then tried the door. It was open.

Inside, Led Zeppelin blasted from the stereo. A guy and a girl curled up together in the corner of the foyer. In the living room, people stood in clumps along the wall or splayed themselves over couches and chairs. The house rang with noise. I walked down a hallway. I put my hands in my pockets, then took them out again.

In the kitchen I found a beer but didn't open it. The smell of pot drifted up the stairs from the basement. A few muscled guys and a pale, fragile-looking girl sat around the kitchen table flipping quarters into a glass. They slurred their words, laughing loudly and hitting each other in the back of the head when a quarter missed the cup. Drink, drink, drink! they chanted. The girl smoked a cigarette with a glazed smile. One guy glanced up at me, but looked away quickly. I blushed anyway.

I wandered downstairs to the basement, where I recognized a few people from last year's English class. They sat in a circle around a reedy guy with long blond hair and a red bong, hanging on every word he had to say. He told a complicated story, something involving a car and the police, but I couldn't follow it. Every so often one of the girls shook her head. "Fuck," she said, and ran her tongue over her braces. "Holy fuck."

I went back upstairs and walked from room to room waiting for someone to notice the new me, but no one seemed to. Disappointment pushed me outside. I tripped my way down wooden stairs, away from the bright lights of the house toward the small latticed huddle of a gazebo. Inside there was a bench and I sat, slapping away mosquitoes, with a tightness in my chest that made me want to scream. How could everything change so much and stay exactly the same?

I'd lost forty-eight pounds and my skin had mostly cleared up. I'd missed a whole semester of school and disappeared for seven months. It seemed like no one had even noticed I was gone.

I pulled my knees to my chest and picked at the vines that climbed the trellis overhead, ripping off leaves and stripping them down to their veins. I was wondering how I would possibly survive the whole next year, when Andrea Dutton came stumbling out of the trees.

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
A Novel
. Copyright © by Amanda Davis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide


At fifteen, Faith Duckle is socially awkward, overweight, and shunned by her high school classmates. After committing a violent act of revenge, she runs away from home, accompanied by the ghost of her formerly fat self. She sets off in search of her one friend, Charlie. Her quest takes her to Nashville, to Atlanta, and eventually to the circus where she soon finds herself enmeshed in a fun, frenetic, new world and its colorful cast of characters. As she navigates the complex adult world of shifting allegiances, entrenched hierarchies, and demanding jobs (cleaning up after the elephants), Faith gains confidence, and fashions a new identity for herself. As the circus wends its way towards a performance in her hometown, Faith must face her deepest fears and decide how she is going to live with her past and forge a new future.

Written with a vividness and emotional intensity rare in contemporary fiction, Wonder When You'll Miss Me is a compelling and original coming-of-age story. It gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the circus and the mind and heart of an extraordinary young woman.

Discussion Questions

  1. The epigraph for the book is by James Baldwin: "And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky." Why did the author choose this quote? Does it take on different meaning after you've read the book?

  2. Why do you think Davis chose Wonder When You'll Miss Me as the title? To whom is this statement addressed?

  3. Why do you think Davis named her narrator Faith? How isthe name significant? What about other characters' names?

  4. When Faith decides to join the circus, the fat girl tells her she's coming along. "You need me like you wouldn't believe." Why does Faith need the fat girl? What does the fat girl give her? How does Faith's relationship to the fat girl change over the course of the novel?

  5. Faith agonizes about whether or not to exact revenge. Does she do the right thing in attacking Tony Giobambera? In what ways does this single act change her life forever?

  6. Why does Faith leave home? What is she looking for? What does she tell herself she's looking for? Why?

  7. What does the circus give Faith that her life back home could not? How is she treated by those who work in the circus? What do they demand of her? What enables her to succeed in this strange environment? In what ways is the circus a saner and safer environment than her home and her high school?

  8. Why is it so hard for Faith to trust people? In what ways has her trust been shattered? How is she able to regain her ability to trust others?

  9. When Faith finally calls home, her mother asks, "How could you do this to me?" What does this question suggest about her mother's feelings for Faith? What kind of woman is her mother? In what ways has she failed Faith?

  10. When Elaine rehires Charlie and Marco, she tells Faith: "I believe in second chances ... I believe people can change and I believe that people deserve to redeem themselves." Do you think Charlie and Marco will redeem themselves? Has Faith redeemed herself? Is Elaine right in thinking people should be given a second chance? Should someone like Tony Giobambera be given a second chance?

  11. Charlie counsels Faith: "Live a round life and you have no place to hide from yourself and nothing to run from." What does he mean? Why is the idea particularly resonant with Faith? At the end of the book, is she moving towards living a round life?

  12. In what ways is Faith's story extraordinary? In what ways is it typical? What does it tells us about the struggles of teenage girls in America today? What does it tell us about the often abusive treatment of kids who are overweight or otherwise different in American high schools?

  13. At one point Faith asserts that it was the fat girl who committed the crime. Does she later take responsibility for all of her actions?

  14. How is Faith different at the end of the novel? In what important ways has she grown up? What experiences have most changed her?

  15. At the end of the novel, Faith says: "I'm going to climb up there fly ... I'm going to flip and twist ... If I fall, someone is going to catch me." Why does Faith have this newfound confidence? Who will catch her?

About the Author

Amanda Davis was raised in Durham, North Carolina and attended Wesleyan University and Brooklyn College. Davis resided in Oakland, California where she taught in the MFA program at Mills College. She received fiction fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Wesleyan Writers' Conference, and residency fellowships from The Blue Mountain Center, the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, The MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo.

Davis also authored Circling the Drain, a collection of short stories. Her fiction, nonfiction and reviews have been published in Esquire, Bookforum, Black Book, McSweeney's, Poets and Writers, Story, Seventeen, and Best New American Voices 2001. She was awarded The New York Public Library Young Lions Honorary Award. Wonder When You'll Miss Me is her first novel. She died in a plane crash in 2003.

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Wonder When You'll Miss Me 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of an overweight, unpopular teen-age girl who is gang-raped under the bleachers at the high school stadium and consequently has a total mental breakdown and loses her memory of the incident. After a year's hospitalization, she returns to the school as a thinner and more attractive girl. She is particularly friendly to a popular boy and notices that people are whispering whenever she is seen with him. In a sudden flashback she remembers that he was the one who held her down while she was being raped. She plots her revenge and one day during the lunch period she slashes him with an axe and flees the school to seek out a loyal male friend who has joined the circus. She begs to become employed by this circus and they finally agree to let her have the job of taking care of the elephants--this involves a lot of mucking up manure. Most of the book is involved with her life in the circus and all the misfits that belong. Even though I have never been particularly interested in circuses and carnivals, I found this book fascinating. It is also suspenseful (sp?)and one of those books you 'Can't put down.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reason I purchased this book back in the spring of 2003 was because I read the obit of Amanda Davis in the Greenville (SC) News. She was with her parents in a small private plane being piloted by her father, ironically traveling between cities for bookstore appearances to promote Wonder When You'll Miss Me, when the plane crashed in the mountains of North Carolina. I thought to myself as I read the obit that I wanted to see what fictional creation, what novel, this woman had brought to the world while alive because it would be her only one. And oh my goodness, how I was richly rewarded! I cross-referenced this novel in a similar review to The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman. Both are coming of age stories which feature teenage girls trying out their 'powers' for the first time. Faith Duckle is trying to understand the meaning of and ultimately shed the ghost that haunts her, just as Stella Sparrow tries to reconcile herself with her visions of death and demise. Amanda Davis may have lived on to create many more Hoffmanesque characters like Faith Duckle, but sadly we will never know the extent of her creative gift. We can only come to know and love Faith Duckle, and that we certainly do. We will wonder what other great stories Davis might have given the world just as Faith wonders when she will be missed by the world.
CatieN on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book I almost stopped reading because the beginning was very dark and just seemed to be getting darker and weirder but decided to hang in there keep reading and I am so glad I did. Faith Duckle is fat, really fat, with a food nag for a mother. Faith's father passed away when she was younger, and she is an only child, so there is no buffer between her and her mother. Like any teenager, Faith just wants to be liked, to belong. During Homecoming when she is 15, Faith is manipulated and fooled by some of the boys at her school with tragic consequences for Faith and which sends her into a downward spiral. After a stay in a mental institution, Faith is now very thin but still mentally on the edge, and the "fat girl" is with her all the time telling her what to do and who to trust and who not to trust. Eventually, the "fat girl" acts out on Faith's anger in a horrific way, and this sends Faith on the run looking for Charles, the brother of her friend from the mental institution. Charles had saved his own sister numerous times, and so Faith thought maybe he could save her. This search for Charles leads Faith to join the circus, change her name to Annabelle, and get beyond the "fat girl" and find the real Faith. What follows is healing and growth in a coming-of-age story like no other I've ever read. This unique character and original story will stay with me for a long time.
davidabrams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Faith Among the Elephant DungReviewed by David Abrams How can a story that begins with the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl end on such an upbeat note 250 pages later with that same girl standing in a circus tent dreaming of spiritual liberation as a trapeze artist? How can a novel go from grim to grand in a brief, whispery page-turn?If you're a novelist named Amanda Davis, the answer is something like a trapeze act itself: deceptively simple from the audience's point of view, but high up near the big-top roof, the flip-fall-catch is one of muscle, grace and, above all, timing.In her novel Wonder When You'll Miss Me, Amanda Davis, like a trapeze gymnast, knows how to dazzle her audience with a literary act that disobeys the rules of gravity and leaves us, heart in throat, wishing it would never end.Unfortunately, the novel does and, sadder yet, so did the short happy life of Ms. Davis. On March 14, Amanda died when the small plane her father was piloting during a promotional tour for the novel crashed into a North Carolina mountain. A sad story, but for those of us who didn't know her personally, it is just one more obituary on a page already filled with good, decent people who have gone to the hereafter. Just another obit, that is, until you read Wonder When You'll Miss Me or Davis' collection of short stories, Circling the Drain. Then the loss can be a profound, smothering weight. Nothing else will spring fresh from Amanda Davis' imagination; we're left with just two thin volumes of words.It's both joy and agony that those words are so good, so dead-on target as Davis describes the pain of lonely adolescent life. If there's any comfort to be had in news of the author's cut-short life, it's that Wonder When You'll Miss Me is the kind of novel that will endure. Even though it's marketed as adult fiction, this is really the kind of story to be read by teens -- males and females alike -- going through that horrible, bumpy transition into adulthood.Faith Duckle, the overweight girl who's assaulted under the bleachers during her school's Homecoming game, is a kind of Everyteen -- we've all had bits of Faith's loneliness and optimism-against-all-odds at one point in our lives. Davis hones in on Faith's troubled psyche so quickly and accurately that we immediately embrace the girl as an intimate friend. Faith is the kind of character who steps off the page in the first paragraph.After the attack by the group of boys, described in stark but subtle terms (I stared at buckles and pockets. He pinched my nose so my mouth fell open. Then the terrible sound of zippers¿), Faith tries to commit suicide, ends up in a mental hospital, and sheds 48 pounds before her release. She returns to school as a renewed Faith, but she is dogged by the presence of her former self, which manifests itself as Fat Girl.While constantly stuffing her face with junk food, Fat Girl is a menacing, nagging ghost who dispenses advice like: "There are all kinds of anger. Some kinds are just more useful than others." She dogs Faith's shadow, insisting that the teen might be able to shed pounds, but she'll never lose the person she was. There were days when she was a comfort and days when she was a nightmare, Faith says. Eventually, she becomes more of a nightmare after she convinces Faith to revenge the rape.The "character" of Fat Girl is a marvelous stroke on Davis' part because, honestly, we can never fully leave our selves back in teenhood. We may move on, but something always clings. Wonder When You'll Miss Me is all about the process of un-clinging the bad debris while coming to terms with the bits that can't be shaken loose.In Faith's case, this means running away to join the circus (something Davis herself did for several months). She renames herself Annabelle and is taken on by the Fartlesworth Circus as it tours the Eastern seaboard. She begins by picking up trash around the midway, then works her way up to assisting with costumes, grooming the elephants and, e
silenceiseverything on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonder When You'll Miss Me has to be one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. Not only because of the plot itself, but because the author of this marvelous book passed away in a plane crash while promoting it, not long after it was published. This book (and Davis' collection of short stories) remains all that is left of Amanda Davis for us readers. Wonder When You'll Miss me is an engaging read. It's sort of a trainwreck read where you know something bad is going to happen, yet you can't really pull yourself away. Written with wonderful prose, we readers, get catapulted into Faith's world. Faith's a girl that any teenager could identify with due to her lack of self-esteem that is originally stemmed by her weight is worsened by a brutal attack inflicted upon her by some boys from her school. Once Faith reaches the point of no return, she runs away and joins the circus. Ahhh, the circus! Everytime I read any book that has a circus in it as a major part of the setting, I get this overwhelming need to actually go to a circus (I haven't been to one in years). I get this sense of nostalgia and have memories flooding back to me of being a kid sitting on those bleachers, entranced by the elephants and terrified of the clowns. The circus in Wonder When You'll Miss Me is less glamorous than one would hope life in a circus would be. But it is still full of wonder. You would think hearing about the same tasks that Faith performs for the circus over and over again would become tedious, but they do not. If anything, those were the parts I enjoyed the most because let's face it: every kid dreams of running away to the circus at least once during their childhood. There's just this sense of magic in the circus that no one wants to escape. A pull to something more innocent. We readers can see why Faith would be drawn to such a world. Wonder When You'll Miss Me was a tremendous novel. You have a heroine who just breaks your heart and who you root for, regardless of the terrible thing she did. While the comic moments are few and far between, they're still there and some of them help to lighten the mood a bit. Wonder When You'll Miss Me is a book about trying to let go of your past while being confronted with it at every turn. It's a book about keeping your faith regardless. Wonder When You'll Miss Me is a bittersweet book because it is so amazing. However, it's terrible because it is the last work we'll ever have from Amanda Davis, who you could just tell from reading this book, had tremendous talent and would've gone on to write tons of other amazing books. Never again will we be able to read her beautiful prose or have one of her amazingly developed heroines capture our hearts completely the way that Faith did. Amanda Davis' death is a tragedy not only for those who knew her, but for us as readers, and for the literary world as a whole.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book begins with the revelation of a horrible event in a young woman's life. The details unfold as the novel progresses, and the reader is able to fell the pain and to understand the fragmentation of her personality to include "the fat girl." Joining the circus is an effort to belong somewhere after committing an act of violence against herself. This book has several levels, but it does come together at the end when the adolescent "coming of age" evolves and the dual personality is merged. I did have a little trouble keeping all the circus characters straight once they began to interact with Annabelle. This seems like a book that would do well in sequel form to find out how Faith's life continues.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am not sure why I didn't like this novel more than I did. I guess in the end it just didn't work for me... the writing constantly brought up two conflicting emotions - there was the absurdity of the the circus while at the same time there were the tragic circumstances of how she got there... it made for a strange and constant roll between those two feelings that didn't exactly flow or work for me. It kept my attention though - and it was a unique story.
jlarsonhamilton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Faith was an overweight teenager that was until she was sexually assaulted and tried to kill herself. Now she has lost the weight and is returning to her life. The fat girl is the only person that Faith confides in, that is until she meets Charlie. Now Faith decides to get even and then run away to find Charlie and the circus. This book is filled with advanced topics that may be offensive to some groups. This book could be useful for students in helping them understand more about mental illness and recovery.
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In Wonder When You'll Miss Me by Amanda Davis a fifteen year old named Faith Duckle is raped by some boys from her school underneath the bleachers during Homecoming. She is tormented and newly thin after being known as a fat girl, so she decides to get revenge. Her sweet revenge turns out to be not so sweet when she has to run away from home to the circus to find her friend Charlie after she realizes the police will be after her. Faith soon finds her place in the circus as Annabelle and trains to become and aerialist performer. Faith Duckle is a fifteen year old who is gone astray in the world after returning from a mental type hospital. She is now thin after being corpulent for so long. Sad and lonely she just wants to alleviate her mind after being raped during homecoming by her peers. Starling Yates is Faith's roommate at the hospital. Starling is always bright and full of life. Starling, however is fixated with dying and wants to die. She ends up killing herself. Charlie Yates is Starlings older brother who works with Faith at a restaurant called Clark's. He is gay and Faith knows more about him then she admits, like knowing how he saved Starling from her many suicide attempts. Faith later finds that Charlie has a serious drug problem and everything he appeared to be was a lie. "I put my chin on my knees. But I wasn't going to do that. Tomorrow the circus would load out and move to Gleryton and I would go with the show, And if someone managed to notice the strong blonde girl lugging equipment for the aerialists, then so be it. Whatever was going to happen would happen, but I didn't want to be afraid anymore. Let them judge me for what I did. I could pick out everyone one of those boys, and turn them in. Everyone." _ Faith Duckle This passage demonstrates the whole idea behind the book, that people should learn to accept who they are. Faith was constantly running in the mental and physical sense from things she was afraid of. It shows her defining moment in a way because she decides that she is not going to run anymore, she is going to live her life. Finally Faith can be free from herself and do as she pleases because she has learned to accept that things aren't going to be perfect and she needs to take some risks. Faith has finally stopped running. I strongly agree with the points in this book because people should learn to accept themselves and not to let others push them around, like Faith was pushed around. The only serious error in this book is Faith's choice to hurt Tony. I feel this part of the book is overly drastic and not necessary, she was planning on running anyway. This book has a new and unusual idea because Faith runs away to the circus. Most people say they are going to run away with the circus as a joke but in this book Faith lives out this idea in a realistic sense. This book relates to people's lives because everyone is a little bit insecure and hesitant to take risks. In this book you can see how taking a risk got Faith further in her life.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonder When You¿ll Miss Me is about a girl named Faith Duckle. When Faith was 15 she was fat and not well liked because she was that way. So when seven (7) guys took her under the bleachers at Homecoming, Faith felt liked and special. However, while under the bleachers, Faith was attacked by the boys. A year after the Homecoming incident and Faith lost a lot of weight. Faith may have lost all the weight, but she was still followed around by her old fat self. Faith got a job at Clark¿s restaurant and there she met Charlie, a person that she would see as her one and only true friend. She would lose him, then throughout the book she slowly but surely finds him again. After taking revenge on one of the boys that attacked Faith changed her image and had everyone, including the ¿Fat Girl¿ call her Annabelle. ¿Annabelle¿ ran away and ended up finding herself fighting the Fat Girl at one of the circus grounds in town. After being found rolling around in the dirt by one of the circus members, Annabelle is taken and then later asked to join the circus as a groom for elephants and horses. The book goes through Annabelle¿s adventures as a groom and her growth as a person while in the circus. Although Annabelle does not return home after the incident at her school, she does eventually realize that the circus will eventually move into her home state, and soon enough into her home town. As she prepares to face her past, Annabelle experiences another part of circus life as she goes from high school to high-wire. This book is a page turner and it gives a different look into a troubled teen¿s life and the different kind of adventure she takes to find out truths about herself. That is what makes Wonder When You¿ll Miss Me a great book for anybody to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just came from Mandy's funeral. She and her parents were killed in a plane crash on Saturday, March 15 2003. I hope that everyone realizes how lucky they are to have gotten the chance to read this wonderful novel and mourn the fact that it will be the only one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a high school girl is brutally abused at a homecoming football game, sent to a loony bin, then returns thin and haunted by the ghost of her formerly fat self. in this funny, thrilling, poignant tale, we watch faith duckle on her odyssey from fear to revenge, from home to highwire. in a story that moves deftly between the emotional and external (circus life especially) we see a rags-to-riches arc of the psyche. we follow faith on an intimate tour of depression, survival, suburban angst and circus antics as she travels in search of love, identity and freedom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book to bring on vacation, and I have to admit, I was very disappointed. I thought it was a very slow read and seemed very silly throughtout. If you are looking for something deep that has meaning, this is not the book for you.