The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
(Scribner, 2014, 384 pages)
In addition to the book sounding interesting I requested the audiobook for this title because I saw Judith Light was one of the narrators. Sometimes I can be an easy sell 😉
The Museum of Extraordinary Things is set in New York at the beginning of the 20th century. Coralie lives in the museum with her father and various oddities that are on display. There are live “performers” that participate in the museum each summer but who leave when the tourist season ends. Coralie’s father has trained her from a young age to be able to withstand incredibly cold water and to be immersed in water for long periods without needing to come up for air. He has trained her to become one of the museum’s attractions, a “mermaid” with a carefully hidden breathing tube. Coralie’s life has been very sheltered and confined and she relishes in the rare bouts of freedom she gets, especially when her father allows her to swim in the Hudson River.
Eddie lives in a different world from Coralie. He arrived in New York with his father and though he was raised as an Orthodox Jew he renounced his faith and his father after a few too many troubling instances in his youth. Fortunately Eddie found a mentor in a photographer named Moses Levy and discovered his passion for taking pictures. He also learned he had a knack for tracking down people when the need called for it. It is because of this skill that Eddie is recruited to look for a young woman who went missing after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. While doing this investigation Eddie crosses paths with Coralie and their two stories become intertwined.
I appreciated the historical aspects of this book the most. Hoffman portrays New York City at a time when the city was changing pretty dramatically and we get a glimpse at what life was like during this time. Not to mention the romance element and some mystery as Coralie and Eddie each search for answers that will change the way they perceive the world around them.