The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

by Alice Hoffman

Overview:The “spellbinding” (People, 4 stars), New York Times bestseller from the author of The Dovekeepers: an extraordinary novel about an electric and impassioned love affair—“an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place” (USA TODAY).

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman and the Butterfly Girl. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance. And he ignites the heart of Coralie.

Alice Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a tender and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is, “a lavish tale about strange yet sympathetic people” (The New York Times Book Review).

Rona Simmons (09/26/17): A tale of out of the ordinary characters and events — magical realisn, perhaps — and set in a New York amusement park of the early 1900s that bears great resemblance to Wonderland the setting of my own novel Postcards from Wonderland. I was fascinated each time Ms. Hoffman brought the wonders (and extraordinary things) of the amusement world into the story. The setting, the characters and her writing will stay with me.

“Love is odder than anything you might find here,’ Maureen instructed. Her voice was kind, yet I felt she was delivering a warning.”

“I had no idea what I was capable of. Was the future set, or could a man change his destiny and make his own decisions as to what came next? Perhaps it was … that a man had many lives. Each day we choose the path we would take by our own actions.”

“…the past was what we carried with us, threaded to the future, and we decided whether to keep it close or let it go. Fate was both what we were given and what we made for ourselves.”
Rating: *****

Ricki Brodie (04/11/14): The story takes place in Brooklyn and Coney Island in 1911. It is told from the perspective of the two main characters and from a narrator. We learn about their pasts and how they became the people they have become. Coralie is the daughter of a man who owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things i.e. a sideshow of real and fabricated attractions. Coralie, due to a deformity, was groomed as a “human mermaid” by swimming the Hudson River to increase her lung capacity for the long hours she spent in a tank of water performing with a fake mermaid tale. Her father brutalized the household and Coralie was kept sheltered from the outside world. Ezekiel Cohen, who with his father emigrated from the Ukraine. He leaves his religion, his home and becomes Eddie, an investigator and then a crime scene photographer. Eddie and Coralie’s paths cross after Eddie is hired to find a missing girl named Hannah and love blossoms but not without problems.

The book is rich with history from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, to the building and fire of the Dreamland amusement park, unions and communities coming together to find justice. She draws beautiful characters from the wolfman to the woman burned with acid to a form gangster turned liveryman to a hermit trying to avoid the encroachment of concrete and buildings in nature and the wealthy son and daughter of a garment company. The author is adept at tying up all loose ends. It was an enjoyable read.
Rating: ****

Dale Israel (03/13/14): Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things will appeal to those hailing from New York and lovers of historical fiction. Taking place in the early 1900's on Coney Island, the novel tells the story of Coralie and Eddie. Coralie's sinister father owns the Museum of Extraordinary Things. The Professor as he is known is controlling and abusive and coerces Coralie to be the Museum's resident mermaid. Eddie is the son of a demanding Jewish immigrant who is trying to find his place in the world. A little bit historical fiction with a measure of fantasy mixed in, this novel drew me in immediately and kept me coming back for more. This book has a fairytale quality to it and is not your typical book. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much. Scrumptious not delicious but well worth your time. 4+
* Rating: ****+

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