The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Scribner. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781451693560. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451693584. F
New York, 1911. Coralie Sardie works for her father, the "professor" and impresario of the Museum of Extraordinary Things, a freak show in Coney Island. She performs as a mermaid in a tank but really lives for her long swims in the cold Hudson River. While Coralie's element is water, Eddie Cohen is tormented by fire. He fled a fiery pogrom in his native Russia and now wants to break away from his miserable life on the Lower East Side and become a photographer. Eddie's hatred of rich factory owners increases when he takes photos of the ghastly fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village. Meanwhile, Professor Sardie grows even more sinister as the crowds desert his "museum" for the new and lavish amusement palaces of Luna Park and Dreamland. Then Coralie and Eddie get caught up in the chaos as Dreamland burns to the ground.
VERDICT With a sprinkling of magical realism, Hoffman (Survival Lessons) blends social realism, historical fiction, romance, and mystery in a fast-paced and dramatic novel filled with colorful characters and vivid scenes of life in New York more than a century ago. [See Prepub Alert, 8/13/13.]
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