Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

I have always loved Alice Hoffman because she manages to mix realistic characters, a strong sense of place, and a spiritual or magical element all into a fascinating, believable story that stays with me forever. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is another of these extraordinary stories.

Coralie Sardie is extraordinary for many reasons. She lives with her father, the mastermind and owner of a boardwalk "freak show." Coralie herself is one of the "freaks" billed as the Mermaid Girl, floating in a tank of water for many hours at a time to entertain the masses and swimming for hours in the dark, dangerous waters of the Hudson. She lives among the other acts including a "wolf man" and a "butterfly girl" who all have extraordinary looks and talents, but are, as Coralie knows, just people.

Eddie Cohen is not a sideshow act but a photographer trying to find his way in a confusing world where he feels alone and unworthy until he happens upon Coralie, who seems to him like a dream in every way. He also happens upon a mystery involving a missing girl and all the characters who played a role in her disappearance. He cannot shake the need to solve the mystery for the parents of the girl, and he can't shake his longing for Coralie.

When Coralie and Eddie find each other, it is more than a simple romance. It is a mysterious and dangerous tangle of past, present, and future. It is two people simply trying to have ordinary love when their lives and bodies and friends are almost too extraordinary to hold it.

If it's magic, mystery, and great characters you want, then Alice Hoffman will never fail you. Give this, or one of her other wonderful books a try. Great summer reads!