A professor collects one-of-a-kind and extraordinary animals and people for his museum including his young daughter who falls in love finally figures out she is not as odd after all. Coralie grew up on Coney Island in her fathers home that had two sections. One for her and her father and the other half housed his exhibitions. Such things as a preserved body of a baby without eyes, a hand with eight fingers and unborn monkey twins. Her father would always blindfold her whenever they went through the museum to protect from seeing all the oddities but he never suspected that she could see through the muslin fabric. She hardly left the museum as a young girl because of her own oddity. She was not allowed to play with other children and always dreamed of the mother who died when she was an infant.
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In the early 1900's Coney Island was a place to escape to from the summer heat of Manhattan, where houses of ill repute and saloons lined the streets. Racetracks, carousels and roller coasters and Dreamland - a park full of animals from all over the world and the Museum of Extraordinary Things drew crowds throughout the summer. Electricity was just being installed and the city lite up like a giant circus. Living people with oddities performed and came and went throughout the years, Coralie never allowed to speak to them.
Her father, The Professor, though no one really knew if he was a 'true' professor, made sure she ate fish everyday so she might mirror the abilities of the fish. He constructed a breathing tube so she could soak in a tub of freezing water underwater for over an hour. All through the winter she and her father would swim in the frigid water of the sea. Her father believed running would add vigor to their health so they ran even in the snow. Her father always made sure she wore her gloves whenever she was out in public, to hide her deformity. She had been born with webbing in between each finger.
Maureen, the housekeeper had been with the family since Coralie was a baby and was the only woman who could instruct her on the facts of life and not to ask too many questions. Maureen had a old boyfriend that had burned her face in a jealous rage and she was marked by scars. She hardly spoke of it.
When Coralie was ten her father took into the museum to see the wonders. He told her she was old enough to understand. She was so excited to have her father focus on her even if it was only for a moment.
Meanwhile, Eddie and his father had arrived in America having fled from Russia after their village was burned to the ground and his mother killed. Being devote Jews, they found housing in a Jewish community in Brooklyn and a job in a factory sewing. Eddie hated the way they slaved everyday for mere pennies. They hardly had food and threadbare clothes. After seeing his father try to kill himself one day, Eddie decided to leave home and make a better living. He found a man everyone called Hochman who had a reputation of 'finding' people. Since Eddie was young and small, he used him to slip in and out of places and taught him how to ask the right questions of suspects. Not being real happy at this job, Eddie befriended a photographer who taught him that its not what you see with the naked eye but with the lens that matters. Eddie felt like he had found his calling. He started to secretly send money to his father who he felt had disowned him.
While fishing one day, Eddie thought he saw a mermaid. HIs dog was going crazy barking at something. Eddie just couldn't see what it or who it was.
By this time, Coralie was eighteen and had grown curious of the outside world and started 'straying' farther from her father and his museum. While swimming one afternoon she got pulled by the tide farther away then usual and ended up on the shore - almost in front of Eddie. She saw him and her heart skipped a beat. She was in love. She ran home.
The museum was starting to lose money. People just weren't coming to see the oddities anymore and it was getting harder to make ends meet so the Professor made Coralie swim in a huge tube at night for private clients, naked. She was made to do inappropriate movements and gestures to the men. She knew her father was making money from her doing this and she hated it. One evening her father sent a doctor to examine her to check to see if she was still a virgin after he thought she had met a man and had relations. The doctor tried to rape her! She was able to fight him off with a scalpel and a shovel.
Eddie was witness to the horrible fire at the workshop. So many deaths. Young girls jumping to their death to escape the fire. Afterwards word got out that the door to escape had been locked. Soon after he was asked to find one of the girls that had vanished. Her father just wanted confirmation that she had died or disappeared. He had been sent by Eddie's father. Eddie was surprised since he thought his father had disowned him and hated him. No, the man assured him. So he started his own investigation.
Coralie went for on her swim up the river when she had to stop to fight the current. She walked up the shore a short distance and tripped over a bundle in the weeds. After looking closer she saw it was a young girl, dead with her lips sewn shut. She ran to get her father. When they returned, the girls lips weren't sewn shut anymore. Her father and helper took the body and decided they would make it into a new oddity for the museum that was close to closing due to lack of attendance. If the Professor could create a 'mermaid', he just knew it would put him back on top.
Eddie decided to find Coralie and found her at the museum. Maureen was falling in love with the 'Wolfman', a man that had hair all over his body and the Dreamland Park was getting ready to open. The Professor was getting scared. No one would befriend his freaks and his daughter would not be with a man. Coralie decided it was time to sneak into the Professors workroom. What she found was awful. The girls body was in a box like a coffin along side a huge fish. She found her fathers notebook and discovered her mother was not dead.
She found Eddie and told him about the girl. She Eddie and the night watch man worked into the night to sneak the body out of the workshop and return it to the family. Coralie read some more of her father notebook that night and realized it was Maureen who put her little body on the back porch one night and returned the next day to ask for a job. It was her father who became Maureen's lover that splashed the burning acid on her face thinking she had be unfaithful. When her father found out she knew all this, he locked her in the workshop. No food. No water. And wrote a note to Eddie saying she didn't want to see him anymore. Maureen was fired and forced to leave without saying good bye.
The next night a huge fire broke out in the Dreamland Park. it quickly started to spread throughout the streets. Eddie just couldn't stay away and ran to see Maureen. She convinced him that Coralie couldn't Have written the note since she didn't' know how to write. They joined forces and broke into the museum. Flames were all around the shops and getting closer. Eddie finally broke down the door and saved Coralie. As they went out side they saw her father on the roof tying to put out the flames. But it was no use. The fire had destroyed the entire Coney Island.
A few years later, Maureen received a letter from Coralie. She and Eddie were happily married. She swam everyday. They hoped to have children. Maureen married the 'wolfman'.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like the fact that Coralie could finally find strength and get out from under her father. And that Eddie realized her couldn't cut the family ties.
Best scene in story:
I liked the ending where the fire burns everything, as if it purging the bad. And the characters find happiness after all.
Opinion about the main character:
Coralie proved to be stronger as she got older and moved on with her life in a positive way.