The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

Scribner | February 18, 2014 | Hardcover

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel is rated 4.25 out of 5 by 4.
Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. 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 father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 in

Published: February 18, 2014

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1451693567

ISBN - 13: 9781451693560

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Captivating and then ... not so much. Alice Hoffman's writing is easy, elegant, and draws you in from the start. The historical and fictional stories weave together beautifully, transporting the reader into a unique type of magic realism. I was thrilled by the ride ... and then I was not. Somehow, it felt as though the stories got away from her and she wound up feeling the need to wrap them up too quickly and too neatly. Despite the weaknesses, Extraordinary Things is still worth the read.
Date published: 2014-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a wonderful story of compassion within a nightmare world A very unusual book, told from two main sources. Yes, there is a museum and it is fascinating, but there are dark secrets hidden here. The museum is owned by a refugee who lives alone on Coney Island with his young daughter, who tells one part of the story, and a housekeeper. Both are called monsters, though they are the most caring in the story. The girl is very young at the beginning of her story, and one hundred percent under the control of her father, though she is not aware of it. Nor is she aware of what his plan for her future is. The second storyteller is an Orthodox Jew, a refugee from the Ukraine who lives with his father and both work in the textile mills in Boston. A young boy on the verge of rebellion at the beginning. He renounces his faith when he believes his father tried to commit suicide. It is a time in New York when men were in charge and women were treated as possessions, a time when class distinction was not only strongly defined but often corrupt and hidden crime was rampant, a time when 'hired' help was more often than not mistreated. Also a time of workhouses where children and women were forced to work for a pittance and often accidents occurred. Such is the case when a fire breaks out while the workers are locked within. You thought this happened only in other countries? Murders and assaults occur while eyes remain closed. This is New York in the 1800s and early 1900s. Manhattan was not much more than a swamp at certain times of the year. Coney Island was just becoming the famous park and beach it would one day be. For the boy who renounced his faith he has found beauty in nature. For the girl living at the museum, she has found horror. Will the two ever be able to find each other in time? Through all the brutality of the times, this story is beautiful in many ways. It flows between two sides, much like the Hudson River, featured so often in the story and integral to it in many ways. It is a story of betrayal, but also a love story of two storytellers. There is connection between many of the characters, and the spark of life, love and humanity exists and blooms against all odds. Alice Hoffman has not only captured the essence of early New York, she has integrated two historical events seamlessly, and recreated the crises so vividly you can almost feel the heat. Though the characters are fictional, the events are real. This is a wonderful story of compassion within a nightmare world. This story I will carry with me for a long time. Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The rating and words are mine with no interference, written from my own perspective.
Date published: 2014-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this! In 1922 Coney Island was in the beginning stages of the tourist attraction it became. New York still had woods in which to roam and hunt.  People could still swim in the Hudson River and fish along its banks.  Coralie Sardie swims it all the time, even when ice begins to form on the surface.  She feels more alive in the water because you see Coralie is a mermaid.  Or, at least she pretends to be a mermaid swimming in a tank at her father’s “Museum of Extraordinary Things”.  Professor Sardie collects unusual specimens of all types and when his daughter turned out to have webbed fingers, well, how could he not make her the star attraction of his show?  Coralie grows up surrounded by “wonders” – the paying public referred to them as freaks.  As she nears adulthood Coralie can’t help but question whether she is the wonder her father promotes publicly or the freak instructed to wear white gloves at all times to hide her deformity. The professor’s housekeeper and Coralie’s surrogate mother Maureen, herself scarred by both life and an encounter with acid is the one person Coralie can count on for unconditional love. Happenstance brings Coralie into the woods one evening where she spies Ezekial (Eddie) Cohen sitting by a campfire sharing dinner with his dog.  Ezekial, who feels like an outsider among his family and friends, is desparately trying to escape his recent past and even more desparately, his distant past.  But how can he ever escape the boyhood memory of his home, with his mother inside, being burned to the ground?  He finds his solace in photography, for some reason, specifically crime scenes.  He photographs not only the victims but takes the “mug shots” of the criminals as well.  But Ezekial has something extraordinary to hide as well.  He has the uncanny ability to find things … and people.  The tale of these three characters, two defined by fire and one by water, would have made an interesting book in itself but Ms. Hoffman does not stop there.  She bookends their story with the tale of two New York tragedies:  the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the Dreamland fire.  She expertly weaves the lives of her characters in and out and around these historical events. One reviewer described this book as “ a wonderful mix of magic vs. science, of history and tragedy, and of love and romance”.  I couldn’t agree more.
Date published: 2014-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Story! Alternating between Coralie's odd upbringing amid her father's museum's unique inhabitants, and Eddie's running from his own father and his culture, this story of early New York brings the two together gradually. Their experiences with other people are sometimes happy, often base, and always moving them to a gripping final meet with truth...and each other. Hoffman always writes well, although I was disappointed in some parts of the ending that seemed too passive amidst such turmoil. Entertaining, unusual. 
Date published: 2014-03-05

– More About This Product –

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 384 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 in

Published: February 18, 2014

Publisher: Scribner

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1451693567

ISBN - 13: 9781451693560

Read from the Book

ONE the world in a globe y ou would think it would be impossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has ever seen before, one-of-a kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous. I can tell you with certainty that such things exist, for beneath the water there are beasts as huge as elephants with hundreds of legs, and in the skies, rocks thrown alit from the heavens burn through the bright air and fall to earth. There are men with such odd characteristics they must hide their faces in order to pass through the streets unmolested, and women who have such peculiar features they live in rooms without mirrors. My father kept me away from such anomalies when I was young, though I lived above the exhibition that he owned in Coney Island, the Museum of Extraordinary Things. Our house was divided into two distinct sections; half we lived in, the other half housed the exhibitions. In this way, my father never had to leave what he loved best in the world. He had added on to the original house, built in 1862, the year the Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad began the first horse- drawn carriage line to our city. My father created the large hall in which to display the living wonders he employed, all of whom performed unusual acts or were born with curious attributes that made others willing to pay to see them.     My father was both a scientist and a magician, but he declared that it was in literatu
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From the Publisher

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. 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 father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

About the Author

Alice Hoffman, an American novelist and screenwriter, was born in New York City on March 16, 1952. She earned a B.A. from Adelphi University in 1973 and an M.A. in creative writing from Stanford University in 1975 before publishing her first novel, Property Of, in 1977. Known for blending realism and fantasy in her fiction, she often creates richly detailed characters who live on society's margins and places them in extraordinary situations as she did with At Risk, her 1988 novel about the AIDS crisis. Her other works include The Drowning Season, Seventh Heaven, The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, The Ice Queen, and The Dovekeepers. Her book, The Third Angel, won the 2008 New England Booksellers' Award for fiction. Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, were made into films. She has also written numerous screenplays, including adaptations of her own novels and the original screenplay, Independence Day.

Editorial Reviews

"As always, Alice Hoffman amazes me with her ability to use words the way other master artists use watercolors, painting the dreamlike world of a girl who grows up in a hall of wonders only to learn that something as ordinary as love is the greatest marvel of all. Many novels these days are called ''stunning'' but this one truly IS: part love story, part mystery, part history, and all beauty."
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