Book Review: The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. Heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Destiny. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendship and first love.

4 cupcakes

“There is no stronger bond than the one that gets you through childhood. This is our story.”

As soon as I saw that gorgeous cover, the hipster part of me knew that I needed to read this book. Reading the synopsis completely solidified that fact: two girls who don’t have the best circumstances set out on a road trip to discover something more that life has to offer.

The Museum of Intangible Things was a beautifully written narrative that made even the most mundane actions seem beautiful. Wunder’s writing is beautiful and lyrical, and filled with many quotes that I just had to bookmark. The fact that the chapters were titled with the intangible lesson that each contained instead of a traditional number was a subtle addition to this story’s charm.

“Even in the midst of our scrambling escape, when we step outside, nature has crystallized itself for me. I notice the sharp bright pins of the stars, the distinct shapes of the constellations, how they pierce the purple blue of the sky.”

Our two leads, Hannah and Zoe, are polar opposites, aside from their love for one another. Hannah is calm, rational, and dependable, while Zoe is more impulsive and uninhibited. At times, Zoe embodied the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and while that was due to her mental illness, she was a bright, burning star that made Hannah feel very plain and boring by comparison.

The Museum of Intangible Things was not the happy, fun road trip story that I was expecting. Instead, heavy, dark, and emotional themes such as alcoholism and mental illness filled its pages, culminating in a heartbreaking yet powerful finish.

At its core, The Museum of Intangible Things is a love story. While the romance fell flat for me, the relationship between Hannah and Zoe was incredibly poignant. They’re not only best friends; they’re each other’s family. And, shown time and time again, they are willing to sacrifice their own ideals (and even commit petty crime) to ensure the other’s happiness.

My only complaint about The Museum of Intangible Things is that many of the side-stories were not elaborated upon. While I understand that this is Hannah and Zoe’s story, I would have loved to have had a more in-depth look at Noah’s Asperger syndrome, Hannah’s dad’s struggle with alcoholism, and her mom’s struggle with depression.

Overall, The Museum of Intangible Things was a beautifully written story about the unconditional love and support that best friendship brings. While it was certainly not a light-hearted read, this story was poignant and unforgettable, and I definitely recommend giving it a try.

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