Friday, May 9, 2014

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

Title: The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Author: Alice Hoffman
Read by:  Judith Light, Grace Gummer, Zach Appelman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 11.5 hour (10 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

I love Alice Hoffman’s novels.  She writes surreal novels that always seem to border the line between reality and fantasy.  I haven’t read any of her novels in the past couple of years so I jumped at the chance to review her latest, The Museum of Extraordinary Things.  I was especially excited to be able to listen to it on audiobook.  With my two hours per day of commute time for work, listening to audiobooks has become my primary way to read books.  

Coralie Sardie has grown up in a strange household.  Her father, Professor Sardie, owns and runs the Museum of Extraordinary Things on Coney Island.  He collects the unusual and strange and also hires people with genetic deformities that can be dressed up to be extraordinary such as the Wolfman and Butterfly Girl.  Coralie was born with webbed hands.  Her father has her hide her hands in gloves whenever she is outside (which I kept wondering how she got them on with webbed hands).  He also trains her as a child to hold her breath for long periods of time underwater and to use a breathing tube underwater as well. All of her training goes towards making her a new attraction, a mermaid.  With a crafted tail, Coralie swims in a tank in the middle of the museum.  A breathing tube that she secretly uses when she turns around to show her tail helps her survive.  As her father tries to keep his business alive, Coralie’s home life turns desperate and she longs to escape to a normal life beyond her father’s control.

Eddie Cohen is a Jewish boy that has a difficult relationship with his father.  After his father almost commits suicide which would have left Eddie alone in America, he takes a job working as a boy helping with investigations. It’s during his investigations that he meets a photographer and turns on a new career path.  As a photographer he captures the horror of the Triangle Fire and then helps to search for a girl that disappeared the day of the Triangle Fire. Along his investigation he meets Coralie and the two fall in love, but will her father allow them to be together?

I loved this audiobook.  I thought Judith Light, Grace Gummer, and Zach Appelman were all excellent narrators.  I loved the history especially the strangeness of Coney Island, the Triangle Fire, and the Coney Island Fire.  I also loved the mysteries involved with the story.  I also enjoyed the look into the world of people that were sadly born with a disability that caused society to shun them, and how they used that disability to be able to make a living.  It is a unique story that was sad, but also hopeful.  The only downfall of the story is that it jumps around in time and by narrator. The jumps have no rhyme or reason to them so it was confusing at times.

Overall, The Museum of Extraordinary Things is another excellent Alice Hoffman novel that is unique and thrilling.  It translates into a riveting audiobook.


  1. Laura,

    I have not yet read (or listened to) anything by Alice Hoffman. The Museum of Extraordinary Things sounds quite compelling.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Thank-you! Alice Hoffman is definitely worth checking out, she is a great author.

  3. I also listened to this book this spring, and found the history fascinating, but the jumping around in timeframe didn't work for me and I found it a bit irritating.