The Story of Chicago MayBook - 2005
A unique, ruminative biography-a fascinating excursion into the American underworld at the dawn of the twentieth century, the life of an unrespectable Irish woman, and the hidden inner life of any woman who has tried to choose the unconventional path-by the author of the New York Timesbestsellers Are You Somebody'and My Dream of You. Nuala O'Faolain, the author of three consecutive New York Timesbestsellers, has come upon a story that is not only a perfect match for her literary gifts but also takes her career in a surprising and rich new direction. This Irish woman writer who achieved international fame with a remarkably candid appraisal of her own unorthodox life has taken as her subject another daughter of Ireland-this one a notorious criminal and unrepentant, independent woman. The legend says that May was a tall girl with glorious hair and big blue eyes, compellingly attractive to men. At nineteen, she stole her family's savings and ran away from her home in rural Ireland to America-first Nebraska, then Chicago at the time of the World's Fair, and then on to New York. In these new American cities, she worked as a grifter, a confidence trickster, a prostitute, a sometime showgirl-earned her moniker and was hailed in tabloids as "Queen of the Underworld." And then she fell in love with a big-league criminal, followed him to Paris where they successfully robbed the American Express, then were apprehended, tried, and sent to prison. May survived prison, returned to America, and was reborn again and again-falling in love, lapsing back into the criminal life, flirting with legitimacy, writing her memoirs. O'Faolain brings a sympathetic scrutiny to this extraordinary life story, reaching across the decades for points of connection and understanding. May was born in post-famine Ireland and died in the world of telephones, sportscars, and movies, in 1929, just before the stock-market crash. Is there a woman's experience they can share? An Irishwoman's experience? An outsider's? In the hands of one of our most astute and gifted memoirists, The Story of Chicago Mayis not only a tale well-told, but an inquiry into the telling of any life story. "There are pioneer journeys still to be made to the edge of the territory where we know how to be sympathetic," O'Faolain writes. "Shine the beam of attention out there and the dark recoils, and the frontier of human settlement moves forward."
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, c2005
Characteristics: 307 p. : ill., ports. ; 24 cm