You were this close

You were this close

You were this close.

You almost had it. Missed it by a hair, by just a smidge. You were slightly off the mark; in fact, almost too close to call. You didn’t get the cigar.

Contrary to the old saying, close counts in more than just horseshoes and hand grenades. The proof lies inside “Almost Famous Women” by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

Take, for example, Daisy and Violet Hilton.

Performers back in the 1920s, the sisters were in high demand, on-stage and off. Even Houdini was a fan. Men, especially, were attracted to them but the sisters kept no secrets from one another.

They couldn’t. They were conjoined twins, literally attached at the hip.

Or take, for example, M.B. “Joe” Carstairs, who’d been an ambulance driver in World War I. Joe was tough as nails and extravagantly wealthy, the perfect hostess on her own island off the coast of Florida. But she was fast, both on the water and in her willingness to find, love, and discard women.

Norma Millay was a first-class actress who took her “dirt-poor” childhood and used it to bring her roles to life. Even critics noticed though, admittedly, her performances weren’t exactly well-attended; it also hurt that Norma’s famous sister, Edna Vincent, was quick to point out on whose “coat-tails” she was riding.

High-end European art houses very desperately wanted more from artist Romaine Brooks, but Brooks ignored them and everyone else from her past. At age ninety, she took “joy in nothing,” and only thought of things that made her hateful. Her anger was taken out on staff, but they got their revenge: they took her belongings.

Butterfly McQueen wanted her life – and her afterlife – spent on her own terms; and a crate of lipstick brought quiet notoriety to a small group of Holocaust survivors. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm would have been more famous, had it not been for the colors of their skin. Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly, lived a life nearly as scandalous as that of her famous uncle. And four-year-old Allegra Byron, illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron, cared for lovingly by a reluctant Capuchin nun, didn’t live long enough to become famous…

Biographies. That’s what I expected when I cracked open “Almost Famous Women.” I thought it was a book of mini-bios but instead, what I got was a collection of short stories – and I think I liked that better.

While researching for other projects, author Megan Mayhew Bergman says in her author’s notes that she came across these women and their stories and, after thinking about small bits of their lives, she wrote these dramatic tales, loosely based on real people and real events. In doing so, she gives readers a better sense of who these edge-of-history, complicated women might have been and who, furthermore, might have known and loved (or hated!) them.

And I think you’ll love them. The stories, that is: they’re easy to fall into and the lengths are pleasantly reader-friendly. What more could you want, except to keep “Almost Famous Women” close?

 

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@gmail.com.

More in Life

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.

A wood-carved whale hangs in the Nikiski Senior Center on Sept. 23, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)
Whale of a job

Nikiski Senior Center gets addition to dining room.