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The Hatbox Baby
Synopses & Reviews
On a sweltering summer morning in 1933, a baby is delivered in a hatbox to the Century of Progress Exposition the World's Fair in Chicago.
This very tiny baby, born three months early, is brought by his desperate young father to the fair's famous baby doctor, Leo Hoffman, to be saved. Dr. Hoffman part showman, part scientist finances his neonatal research by exhibiting a collection of live premature babies in their incubators. His Infantorium, with its giant test-tube fountain spouting pink-and-blue water and its pair of wading storks, attracts huge, gawking crowds every sultry day.
At the fair, a place of freaks and marvels, mysteries, miracles and even murders the notion of what is normal and what is not comes into questions daily. And before the summers ends and the fair closes, a number of remarkable persons will invest heavily in this fragile baby's life: Dr. Hoffman; his registered nurses; his wet nurses; the baby's spinster aunt; Caroline Day, the beautiful fan dancer and another of the fair's biggest attractions; and a dwarflike sideshow barker named St. Louis Percy, the fan dancer's cousin, manager, and bodyguard, whose stake in the hatbox baby's future becomes the most serious of all.
Inspired by the real life and work of a pioneering neonatologist, Carrie Brown once again delights us with a richly imagined story about the transforming power of love.
The year is 1933, and on a sweltering summer morning, a baby is delivered in a hatbox to the Century of Progress Exposition - The World's Fair - in Chicago. The very, very tiny baby, born three months early, is brought by his desperate young father to the fair's famous incubator doctor, who exhibits live premature infants to the fair's gawking crowds. This doctor, the father hopes, will save his son. Before the summer ends and the fair closes, a remarkable cast of characters will come to have an investment in the fragile baby's life - Dr. Lep Hoffman, the doctor who cares for him; Caroline Day, the fair's beautiful fan dancer; and St. Louis Percy, the fan dancer's cousin, friend, and protector, whose stake in the baby's future becomes the most serious of them all.
In the strange world of the fair, a place of freaks and marvels, mysteries, miracles - and even murders - the notion of what is "normal" is suddenly in question. Inspired by the real life and work of an early neonatologist, Carrie Brown once again celebrates love's transforming power with a richly imagined, deeply affecting story.
The Chicago World's Fair in 1933 is the setting for this story about a desperate father who brings his premature baby to a famous incubator doctor who exhibits live premature infants to the fair's gawking crowds. All the characters who get involved in this fragile baby's life form the plot of this startlingly original novel.
About the Author
Carrie Brown, a former journalist, lives in Sweet Briar, Virginia, with her husband, the novelist John Gregory Brown, and their three children. Her first novel, Rose's Garden, won the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. Her most recent book, The Hatbox Baby, won the 2001 Great Lakes Booksellers Association award for fiction and the 2001 Library of Virginia Literary Award.
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