cover image American Follies

American Follies

Norman Lock. Bellevue, $16.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-942658-48-1

Lock’s raucous, fantastical seventh entry in his American Novel series (after Feast Day of the Cannibals) involves Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on a search for a baby kidnapped by the KKK. Pregnant stenographer Ellen Finch, 27, secures a job as stenographer for the famous suffragists in 1883, when they are at work on their third volume of History of Woman Suffrage. Ellen endures Elizabeth and Susan’s one-upmanship and name calling (“Primp!” “Prude!” “Poseur!” “Prig!” “Humbug!” “Stickleback!”) and meets other notable figures such as Jacob Riis, Herman Melville, and performers from P.T. Barnum’s circus. Four months after the birth of Ellen’s son, Martin, he is taken by a member of the KKK, who claims the father is a black man passing as white and plans to kill him. Ellen, Elizabeth, and Susan borrow Barnum’s train to rush south on a surreal journey, complete with Stanton and Anthony dressed up as Klan members and later in blackface, and getting help from a jailer’s wife and a former slave in their desperate attempts to rescue the child. Lock captures the tone and language of the 19th century (“I composed a telegram with the laudatory terseness preferred by God for His pronouncements”), though the bizarre happenings are disorienting. This imaginative exploration of late-19th-century America’s cultural tensions is an amusing burlesque. (July)