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© Bella Stander

book reviews

The Hatbox Baby
by Carrie Brown
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

November/December 2000

by Bella Stander

To read this book is to be enchanted by a languid, glittering stream of words that conjure the intertwined mystery and tragedy of life. It's hard to believe that Brown, author of Rose's Garden, wasn't alive at the time of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, for she writes so convincingly of that time and place, as well as of the characters who people it. A young man brings his prematurely born son in a hatbox to the "Infantorium," a display where pioneering neonatologist Dr. Hoffman and his nurses care for preemies under the curious stares of the paying public, right next door to notorious fan dancer Caroline Day. Later the father is senselessly murdered, setting in motion a chain of events connecting Hoffman, Day, her dwarfish male cousin and the unnamed baby. What happens, though, is perhaps less important than how it is described, for Brown's stunning prose is what makes this gem shine.

© 2000 Bella Stander

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