What do you do when your long-term boyfriend’s dad might be dying? Well, you get married quick so he can make it, of course. You were already headed in that direction—I mean, you’re practically living together as it is. What harm could it do? He’s a nice guy, he just has a few quirks, but nothing you can’t handle. I’m sure the Catholic thing won’t come up much.
Joanna Rose’s novel, A Small Crowd of Strangers, asks and answers the age-old question: “What happens if I marry the wrong person?” Rose paints a quaint life for Pattianne Anthony—a small town librarian with a casual sex life, a smoking habit, and a family that communicates with a series of unspoken words, if they communicate at all. All of that changes when she meets Michael Bryn, the choir boy who can do no wrong. Rose takes us on a spiritual journey with Pattianne as we begin to see that sometimes religion and identity can become one and the same.
A heavily populated Saturday afternoon echoes a literal mutter throughout the Mütter Museum, the living mingling amongst the dead, their voices hushing as a wall of skulls greets them beyond the foyer’s marble stairs. Even those who have been here before (including myself) cannot help but ponder the mummified past, the wax figures of the disfigured, and the alternately gleaming and rusting obstetrical tools which look more suitable beside a Torquemada or Mengele than in jolly old Franklin’s adopted hometown.
Above, the special exhibits room looks almost sterile, newer than its surroundings, reminiscent of Museum of Modern Art austerity, white walls and carefully spaced pieces, granting viewers a hint of intimacy. Below, thin and creaking wooden steps lead to crowded collections in jars; the sample and trifles and oddities of humanity which repel and draw the curious and strong of stomach. The reverse chronology of architectural and exhibition styles suit the venerable institution, a bequest of the University of Pennsylvania College of Physicians, and set in motion a walk backward through time into the American medical establishment.