Monday, July 23, 2018

The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd

Sadie's life couldn't be better: She has a wonderful best friend, an incredible boyfriend, trusting, classic-rock-loving parents who give her quite a bit of freedom. 

And there's George, who has been her sidekick and partner in crime for as long as she can remember. Together, they've explored fantastical worlds, traveled to far-away locations, sampled exotic food and drink, and had just about any sort of adventure one could dream of. Sadie can talk to George about anything. And he understands her better than anyone.

The's only one problem: George is only a figment of Sadie's very active imagination. And it is this imagination that gets her into trouble. 

When Sadie spaces out while driving and totals her car, she doesn't even know what happened...until she wakes up in the hospital. And not just any hospital, but the psych ward. Apparently she was crying out for George when the paramedics arrived. And, of course, her family and friends don't know any George.

Sadie's doctor, concerned that George has hurt Sadie and caused the accident (or, worse, is out there and injured himself), is urging Sadie to tell the truth. But Sadie can't. Because if she does, George and the beautiful, magical world they've built together will vanish. And Sadie doesn't know what she'd do if she lost all that. If she lost George.

Tara Wilson Redd's gorgeous novel The Museum of Us is probably my favorite book I've read all summer (so far). Or one of them.

The novel alternates between the past and present, slowly revealing to the reader how Sadie created George (and their world) and how she came to be in the car on the day of her life-changing accident. Mixed in are flashes of the adventures she and George have taken together, so we get to see Sadie's imaginary world too (which, I agree, is quite a bit more exciting and beautiful than reality). This really gives the reader a chance to know Sadie's character intimately. 

Redd treats Sadie's issues delicately, but doesn't sugar coat anything. And in the end, she does accept herself and she does seek help for becoming more grounded (although I hope she doesn't lose her imagination entirely).

Perhaps the only flaw in this gorgeous story is the way the minor characters were handled. Henry and Lucie, Sadie's boyfriend and best friend, were too perfect: Attractive, talented, understanding, smart... They had no flaws. And, in many ways, that made them seem even more fastastical than George. And then there was Eleanor, who, at first, seemed important, but was "killed off" (not literally) in a way that made it seem the author changed her mind about having the character in the story but couldn't be bothered to go back and edit her out.

Aside from that, the story was perfect. I didn't even mind that the ending wrapped up a little too neatly, much like an old-school TV show where all the world's problems are solved in a 30-minute span (roll credits, studio audience applauds).

I absolutely recommend this one! --AJB

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