“This daughter of Mary Shelley delights and excites the border between story and science.”
“A novel about what we want and also what we can’t escape.”
“A haunting chord of a novel that will hang in the air long after you turn the final page.”
“Reads like a documentary retold as a dream retold as a mystery novel. What a wise, good-hearted debut!”
After nearly drowning, eight-year-old Maeve Wilhelm falls into a strange comatose state. As years pass, it becomes clear that Maeve is not physically aging. A wide cast of characters finds themselves pulled toward Maeve, each believing that her mysterious “sleep” holds the answers to their life’s most pressing questions: Kevin Marks, a museum owner obsessed with preservation; Monique Gray, a refugee and performance artist; Lionel Wilhelm, an entomologist who dreamed of being an astrophysicist; and Evangeline Wilhelm, Maeve’s identical twin. As Maeve remains asleep, the characters grapple with a mysterious new technology and medical advances that promise to ease anxiety and end pain, but instead cause devastating side effects.
Weaving together speculative elements and classic fables, and exploring urgent issues from the opioid epidemic to the hazards of biotech to the obsession with self-improvement and remaining forever young, Rebekah Bergman’s The Museum of Human History is a brilliant and fascinating novel about how time shapes us, asking what—if anything—we would be without it.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A mysterious island could rock the most fundamental aspects of the human condition in Rebekah Bergman’s literary sci-fi debut. Just off the coast of an unnamed city is Marks Island, the home of ancient mysteries and strange red algae that paleobiologist Naomi Wilhelm has spent her career studying. However, Naomi’s research takes on new meaning when her daughter Maeve is found asleep on the beach with a chunk of the algae in her pocket. Maeve proceeds to remain asleep for over 25 years—without ever aging. Bergman seamlessly weaves together multiple perspectives to create a memorable tale of bioethics, medical choice, and some seriously deep questions about our existence. We connected with so many of the characters, especially Maeve’s father, Lionel, as he tries to come to terms with his daughter’s condition. With its elegant prose and perfectly paced storyline, The Museum of Human History will stay with you long after you’ve finished your visit.
Bergman's cluttered yet satisfying speculative debut centers on an algae-derived drug that stops physical aging but comes with dire side effects, including memory loss and a shorter life span. Genesix head researcher Naomi Wilhelm hopes to uncover the corporation's secrets about Prosyntus, but she accidentally dies while swimming off an island where the algae is sourced. Shortly after, Naomi's eight-year-old daughter, Maeve, has an accident at the same place, which puts her in a coma. Now, 25 years into the future, Maeve is still in a coma and hasn't aged physically. Bergman also delves into the stories of Maeve's identical twin, Evangeline; Monique Gray, a famous performance artist and former babysitter of the twins; Tess, a terminally ill woman who befriends a young Evangeline and acts as Monique's immigration officer; and more. By the end, the various characters converge around Maeve on the eve of a deadly earthquake. The cast slips in and out of each other's lives, a narrative device that Bergman doesn't always master—the large number of coincidental connections occasionally strains credulity. Still, the characters' loss and grief are palpable. This will leave readers considering the fallibility of memory and the costs of attempting to preserve one's youthful appearance.