A woman, who has worked on a farm in Bury St. Edmunds, England for her entire adult life, has dreamed for decades of visiting the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark with her best friend to see The Tollund Man, a naturally preserved mummy discovered in a peat bog. When her friend dies, she sends a grief and regret-filled letter to the museum, which is answered, cautiously, and a bit clumsily, by one of the museum’s curators. Over the course of the following year, the two develop a regular correspondence through which they forge a connection and friendship upon which both will come to rely.
Meet Me at the Museum, Anne Youngson’s debut novel, is an epistolary novel, the story being told through the letters sent between two people who start off as strangers and become close friends. The novel begins with the first letter, allowing readers to join the journey at the beginning, learning about the two letter writers as they learn about each other.
“We have both arrived at the same point in our lives. More behind us than ahead of us. Paths chosen that define us. Enough time left to change.”
Over the course of the novel, both of the characters reflect on the paths they have followed in their lives and the reasons for the choices made. They also speculate about the paths that were not followed, and how differently their lives might have been. Sharing their distinct life experiences, they ultimately realize that even though they are very different people, they have much more in common than not, and that this common ground has been discovered through the act of writing letters. Early in the novel, there is an admission that, had the initial contact been made via email, the message may have been disregarded or answered in a much more dismissive manner. The two correspondents then go on to discuss the immediacy of email, and the time and attention it takes to commit one’s thoughts in a letter using a pen and paper. Youngson illustrates beautifully not only the differences between types of communication, but also the potential connection and relationship that may develop, if and when one takes the time to truly communicate, rather than simply replying. It is a wonderful reminder of the benefits of slowing down and considering, thoughtfully, what one wants to say as opposed to merely dashing off a few words and hitting send.
Meet Me at the Museum is a gentle, thoughtful, and introspective novel and a pleasant reminder of how strong relationships can be forged between those with seemingly nothing in common, if we simply take the time to do so.