The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
My oh my, this book is stupendous, fantastic, amazing, awesome, lovely, disturbing, emotional, - and every other superlative. If you loved Geek Love or The Night Circus, then you will recognize Professor Sardie's collection of 'oddities.' If you enjoy historical fiction, especially about turn-of-the-century New York City and Coney Island, this book is for you. Last, if you put Hoffman's last book, The Dovekeepers, in your top list of 2012, this author has repeated her ability to write with beauty and style. While it begins before 1911, with some background on the intriguing cast of characters (Ezekial (aka Eddie), Sardie himself, and Coralie, the mermaid girl), much of the story revolves around 1911 New York City. Coney Island (unknown to me, not actually an island!) is a place of magic, intrigue, enslavement, and danger, and the garment district is rife with unionization efforts, cultural divides, and class issues. Hoffman shows us the first-person narrative from both Coralie and Eddie; as we see into their thoughts, they give us a glimpse of their past, as well as their tortured souls. The peripheral characters of the creepy professor, Maureen the housekeeper, and Mr. Morris, the brilliant 'Wolf-Man' are beautifully developed. As Coralie delves deeper into her own history, we begin to see the story unfold, until the conflagration in the end envelopes both the characters and the reader. This was a delectable story, that both disturbs and intrigues - it would be an amazing book club choice, vacation read, or rainy-day immersion into an extraordinary time.