|The historic Lower East Side. Taken from the Tenement Museum’s website.|
I’m thrilled. Tonight I’m going to see the legendary Alice Hoffman read from her new book, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, at the Tenement Museum. I’m thrilled for two reasons:
The first is the location. The Tenement Museum honors the legacy of New York’s early immigrants who settled on the Lower East Side. It specifically honors one location, 97 Orchard Street, which was built in 1863 and home to over 7,000 members of the working class. There’s something about standing in a tiny apartment and imagining the sounds, smells, and dreams of those who lived there so many years before. It’s incredibly humbling to imagine the crowded living conditions, lack of toilets, running water, and electricity and know that residents firmly believed that life would be better one day, if not for them, then for their children.
And then there’s Alice Hoffman. Here on Earth was the first novel I read by Alice Hoffman. It was the novel that made me fall in love with women’s fiction. It made me want to write. When I found it in a tiny bookstore so many years ago, I had no idea how strongly the book with the dragonfly on the cover would impact my future writing career. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is described as follows:
From the beloved, bestselling author of The Dovekeepers, a mesmerizing new novel about the electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.
Coney Island: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a 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 photographing 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 an apprentice tailor. 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.
With its colorful crowds of 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 and tender story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Hoffman at her most spellbinding.
If you’re interested in joining me, the event tonight is at:
The Tenement Museum
103 Orchard Street
New York, NY
Hope to see you there!