In writing The Madam, award-winning storyteller and bestselling author Julianna Baggott turns her eye to her own family history, creating a masterful novel based on the lives of her grandmother, who was raised in a house of prostitution, and her great-grandmother, who was the madam. The result is a passionate, richly detailed account of the business of lust and the human soul -- gracious, corrosive, resilient.
It's 1924 in an industrial town in West Virginia. Alma works in a hosiery mill where the percussive roar of machinery has far too long mufþed the engine that is her heart. When her husband decides that they should set out to Þnd their fortune in Florida, Alma is torn. Ultimately she agrees and they leave behind their three children, a boarding house of show people, a dead vaudeville bear, and Alma's ailing mother. But their fragile marriage soon collapses. Abandoned by her husband on a Miami dock, Alma is suddenly forced to make her own way in the world. With the help of a gentle giantess and an opium-addicted prostitute, Alma reclaims her children, forging a new family, and commits herself to a life set apart from the world she knows. She chooses to run a whore house, a harvest that relies on lust and weakness of which "the world has a generous, unending supply."
As her children grow older, however, Alma's love for them becomes desperate -- especially for her daughter Lettie, who, at Þfteen, disappears. Alma draws on the Þerce strength of the unlikely cast of women around her, and the novel careens to its shocking, redemptive, unforgettable ending.
Written in stunning, incandescent prose, The Madam is a literary page-turner that takes on brutal realities. It is a story of the unbreakable bonds between women who triumph and, more heroically, endure.