Monday, July 21, 2014

The Boy at the Museum

I am not a fan of television, and I abhor one particular genre of television programming - reality TV. As if, I ask myself, any of those shows depict the real lives of their characters. If this is true, I have a great deal of sympathy for these people. So why the immense popularity with reality TV? It is human nature to be drawn into other people's problems, to witness their downfalls, even to marvel at their greatest flaws. And this is nothing new.

How did Ripley's Believe It or Not come about? Why were the carnival side shows so popular a hundred years ago? We are fascinated by the dark side of humanity. Such is the premise of “The Boy at the Museum” by Tamera Lenz Muente.

An eight-year-old boy becomes an attraction at a Cincinnati museum in 1843 simply because he was born without legs. The story is told by his mother Elizabeth and by Arthur Watson, a young man desperate for a job in the big city, who gets pulled into the macabre world of the museum by becoming a sort of nanny to the boy. As any eight-year-old boy would be, Enos is just as curious about the museum as its visitors are about him.

In addition to following the antics of young Enos, we follow the stories of his mother and his caretaker Arthur. We root for them and hope that good conquers all in a place where darkness seems to prevail. Told in the first person by both Elizabeth and Arthur, at times, I became confused as to who was telling their story.

Overall, though, the author has done a great job creating an America of the past, one that we don’t usually hear about. “The Boy at the Museum” is a great story and reminds us that we haven’t come so far in 170 years.   

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