Thursday, April 24, 2014

Can't Keep It To Myself: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

This month, it feels like I could write one of these posts for nearly every book I've read so far, each one more extraordinary and engulfing than the last.  I am quite a fan of Alice Hoffman's and have been for many years.  Her prose is so lyrical and evocative, I find it possible to lose myself in her stories completely.  Her latest, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, I am pleased to say, is no different.

Coralie Sardie has been raised among the wonders of her father's Coney Island freakshow.  Indeed, with her own physical anomaly and a little training, she has performed alongside them for years as The Mermaid.  Late at night during one of her long-distance endurance swims in the Hudson River, Coralie happens upon a photographer who is taking photos of moonlit trees.  She is henceforth fascinated with him. 

Photographer Eddie Cohen is a Russian immigrant who has turned his back on his Orthodox community and his family.  He is a finder of lost things, and in the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he is on the case of a missing woman who was neither among the tragedy's dead, nor among the survivor.  It is during his search that he also finds Coralie and the two fall in love, but this is so much more than a love story.  It's a story of belonging and of "other-ness", of secrets and truths, of life in an extraordinary city during a tumultuous time in its history.  It is gloriously moving and I found myself completely captivated. 

Very highly recommended.

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