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The Story of Chicago May
The Story of Chicago May
Author: Nuala O'Faolain
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 Times bestsellers Are You Somebody? and My Dream ...  more ».

Nuala O'Faolain, the author of three consecutive New York Times bestsellers, 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 May is 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."
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ISBN-13: 9781573223201
ISBN-10: 1573223204
Publication Date: 9/22/2005
Pages: 320
  • Currently 2.6/5 Stars.

2.6 stars, based on 8 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio Cassette
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

ALbookbugg avatar reviewed The Story of Chicago May on
Helpful Score: 5
This book tells the story of May Duignan, AKA Chicago May. In the early 1900's, May runs away from her rural home in Ireland to go to America. When she gets there, she turns to a life of crime and prostitution and she gradually becomes a notorious, well-known figure in Chicago. She was so well-known that she was dubbed âThe Queen of the Underworldâ in the tabloids of the time. She even wrote a book of her own experiences that survives to this day. How I'd love to have a chance to read it!
This book also gives a candid view of the very poor that lived in squalid tenements, worked in nasty brothels, and drank in seedy taverns. You can almost see the sights and smell the stink. Excellent book!
amichai avatar reviewed The Story of Chicago May on + 368 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I did not enjoy the "ruminative" style of this biography. The character's life is exciting enough for real engagement, but the author intentionally disrupts this.
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reviewed The Story of Chicago May on + 4 more book reviews
A well-written, insightful book, retelling the story of Chicago May, "The Queen of the Underworld." Authentically recounts the Irish immigrant's experience surviving on the streets of the new world.