Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review: The Miracle Girl

The Miracle Girl
Published By: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Page Count: 352
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Fiction

Eight year-old Annabelle is practically in a coma; akinetic mutism, it’s called. She is awake, but unresponsive and unable to move, and not even her mother knows what, if anything, she is thinking. This would all be sad though unremarkable except that those who have visited her seem to have miraculous things happen to them: illnesses cured, relationships mended, feelings of peace amidst the turmoil of the closing months of 1999. Is Anabelle healing those around her? Is it truly a miracle? 

 The Miracle Girl absolutely nailed the zeitgeist of the last half of 1999. Having lived through the turn of the millennium as an adult, I appreciated Roe’s characterization of the time. He perfectly captured the mania, nervousness and (retrospectively needless) bravery-through-insecurity that coursed through society at the time. Crazy times lead people to ponder both the desire and need for hope and miracles. 

Despite being central to the novel, Annabelle doesn’t really play much part in the story. The true story of The Miracle Girl revolves around Karen and John (Anabelle’s parents), the priest investigating the supposed miraculous healings, and the “Smiling Skeptic,” a blogger who is nearly evangelical in his desire to expose the mysterious to the light of reason. 

Roe made a smart choice telling this story from multiple viewpoints. It made it easier to sympathize with the main characters, especially John, who abandoned Karen and Anabelle shortly after Karen took Anabelle out of the hospital to care for her at home. The omniscient perspective also makes it easier to determine why certain people act as they do (which amused me a little because of the subject matter and the fact that the author is nonreligious). That said, if you don’t like stories that bounce around from viewpoint to viewpoint and between time periods, The Miracle Girl might not be the best book match for you.

Perhaps the first miracle was that she lived.

The crowds keep coming. They arrive, all with their reasons, all with their doubts and certainties and everything in between. More and more every day, drawn by rumor and whisper and desperate wish. They come to Shaker Street to see eight-year-old Anabelle Vincent, who lies in a coma-like state--unable to move or speak. They come because a visitor experienced what seemed like a miracle and believed it happened because of Anabelle. Word spreads. There are more visitors, more supposed miracles, more stories on TV and the Internet. But is this the divine at work or something else?

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