Book Review: The Tollund Man and His Two Friends

Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum

  • Four and a half stars
  • Debut Novel
  • Letter format
  • Well worth your time if you love the artistic and quaint novel
  • Reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Basic Synopsis: At 78 pages in, I found the hook factor.  It has the appeal of re-reading text messages.  In the beginning, she was just an ignorant woman looking for answers from an expert curator on the Tollund Man. (The Tollund Man is a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterized in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age. He was found in 1950, preserved as a bog body, on the Jutland peninsula.  Find out more on him here.  WARNING: The pictures of the Tollund Man are interesting but can be disturbing. Proceed with caution.)  Though she reached out looking for one voice she found another.  At first, every letter she wrote, she expected to remain unanswered.  At first, he answered with facts and information thinking this is what she needed.  She shared her desire to visit the museum but she withheld the reason she couldn’t go. 

When he pressed her for more answers, as if she was a project he needed to research, she finally shared her pain with him.  She couldn’t go to the museum because she was supposed to go to the museum with her friend.  Her friend whom she’d lost to a terrible life and an awful disease.  She can’t recapture it because it’s too late.  She shares her wistfulness at the life that has gone by her.  She shares about her simple life she finds quite complicated. He, in turn, shares his pain with her.  He tells the sad tale of his wife’s death.  After her death, he couldn’t carry his briefcase because she used to put some random object in his briefcase.  A poem, a drawing, a recipe, an earring, a glove, a photo, etc. Since her death, the Widower has felt the loss of the extra occupant in his briefcase, until now.  Now a stranger’s, a friend’s letter rests hopefully inside. 

Here are a few of my other favorite moments in the book:

They slowly start addressing each other as “Mr. Anders Larsen, Curator” and “Mrs. Tina Hopgood” to “Dear Anders” and “Dear Tina.”  They are inching their way closer to each other, through nothing, through everything.  

The two share the joy and pain they experience in their families and find comfort in each others’ words.

They use a metaphor of raspberry bushes in their letters.  No matter how Tina tries as she picks the berries, she will always miss so many as she goes about the chore.  She compares this to life and how you will not be able to experience or appreciate everything in life.  You will always miss out on something. 

Within this story, there is another story called the Rag Man.  It is nothing short of pure poetry.

Tina and Anders go from “Regards” to “Best wishes” to “Warm wishes” to “Love, Tina,” and “Love, Anders.” 

Tina is afraid to make a trip to the Museum a reality.  What if it doesn’t live up to her expectations. She prefers the ritual of planning to visit someday.  Will she ever go?  What has to happen for her to take that leap?  WHat will happen to Anders if she doesn’t come?

Now, I think you can anticipate where this goes.  I am a happy-ending kind of girl.  But I knew I wouldn’t exactly get the closure I wanted.  So, instead, I kind of anticipated an ending I envisioned for myself. 

They are writing letters after all.  It would ruin everything if the ending was spoken from the perspective of a narrator showing up out of nowhere and telling us whether or not these characters meet, fall in love, live happily after, etc. etc.  I feel like this kind of ending is one of the most entertaining.  I often change the endings of movies I don’t like, or ones that I feel missed the mark and didn’t do the characters credit.  If you think about it, the title gives it away.  The mystery this writing style creates makes this beautiful book a joy to read.  Read it for yourself and tell me if you don’t picture them there, together, with the Tollund Man.