No one writes a love story like Alice Hoffman.
I have never been disappointed in an Alice Hoffman book. She is an extremely prolific story teller who has published books since she was in early 20’s. I have read and enjoyed EACH and EVERY one of her stories. They remind me of the magic and beauty in our world. “Blackbird House,” ” The Dovekeepers,” and “Practical Magic” are essential reads.
In the “The Museum of Extraordinary Things” Hoffman creates yet another magical fairy tale. The novel takes place in Brooklyn in 1911 when the city was undergoing massive transformations. The novel weaves real events into the narrative with the Dreamland Amusement Park and the horrifying Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. These provide the backdrop to the stories of the two narrators – Coralie and Eddie. Both of these lost souls are searching for happiness after years of disappointment and loneliness. They are both motherless, have difficult relations with their fathers (for very different reasons), and are mentored by people who are outcasts to society.
Hoffman uses powerful themes and images in her work that contribute to the magical realism of her writing. In this book she plays with many opposing ideas like Fire/Water, Darkness/Light, Rich/Poor, Religious/Atheist, Normal/”Abnormal”, Entertainment/Exploitation. The imagery adds to the spell that her words have on readers. Pay attention to the many ways she utilizes animals throughout the story – Fish, Dogs, Birds, Tortoise, Wolves. Compassionate practices towards animals contrast with the inhumane nature of labor practices for immigrants and “freaks.” The characters who are affiliated with animals are the “good guys” in the story.
Scenery and setting are key to this novel. Hoffman writes in a way that allows her readers to smell and feel everything. While I was reading this book I had dreams about the museum, the Hudson River, the forests of Ukraine, and Eddie’s carriage house. Hoffman does not write paragraphs and paragraphs of description, instead she has the power to create a sense of place with just a few well-chosen words.
Overall, the book is about the transforming power of love. Good love overcomes misunderstandings and evil. It is everything. One of the characters says about his wife who died shortly after they were married, “I’ll tell you this, a day with with her was better than a life without her…I wouldn’t mind being haunted. I’d be happy about it.” “The Museum of Extraordinary Things” enchants and delights on every page.
Authors have started releasing short youtube videos for their books. Elizabeth Gilbert did it for “The Signature of All Things,” and I noticed that Hoffman did it for this book. Kind of weird. Kind of interesting. Must be a new marketing tool that publishers are using…
In other Hoffman news, I read “The Dovekeepers” is being made into a mini-series that will be released in 2015. It will be on CBS – I’d be much more excited if it was HBO or Showtime, but I’ll still watch it.
Also, I blogged a few months ago about the 21-Day Oprah/Deepak Meditation Challenge. A new challenge, Find Your Flow, starts on MONDAY, April 14th. Register for it here!