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Maybe a Miracle: A Novel by [Strause, Brian]
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4.0 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Strause juxtaposes the caustic and the poignant in his first novel, a pitch-perfect teenage take on human failings and superhuman spectacle in central Ohio. Monroe Anderson, stealing away to smoke pot before his senior prom, discovers his vivacious, sensitive 11-year-old sister, Annika, face down in their pool. He saves her life, but she remains in a coma. A crowd of well-wishers pray beneath Annika's hospital window, and it's not too long before the miracles begin: rose petals rain from the sky; Annika's hands bleed like stigmata. Soon Annika is inspiring letters, pleas and pilgrimages from the nation's sick and grieving, whom Monroe alternately pities and scorns, as he does the family priest who promotes Annika as a latter-day Jesus. The media fuels the frenzy, and Monroe's mother dolls Annika up for her visitors with feverish optimism. Monroe's workaholic father and loutish older brother also reveal their fragilities in the crucible of Annika's prolonged coma, an estranging rather than unifying force. The metaphysical runs up against the mundane with darkly comic ambiguity. "If Annika had the power to heal, wouldn't she heal herself first... and go into the kitchen and make everyone pancakes?" Monroe thinks. Monroe's barbed detachment and biting sarcasm, tempered by the awe that steals over him at unguarded moments, hold the reader even when the plot crawls.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Strause's debut is narrated by 17-year-old Monroe Anderson, who, on the night of his prom, goes out to the pool house to smoke a joint and discovers his younger sister Annika, floating in the pool, not moving. Monroe pulls her out and saves her life, but when Annika is rushed to the hospital, the doctor tells Monroe and his family that she is in a coma, and they can't be sure when she'll wake up. What begins as a family tragedy is writ large when miraculous events start occurring around Annika: rose petals fall from the sky, a stain on a hospital wall takes on the visage of Jesus, and Annika's hands begin to bleed from the palms. Monroe's mother embraces Annika's newfound religious status, his father withdraws from the family, and Monroe isn't sure what to make of it all. Monroe's voice draws the reader in, even if the other characters never quite achieve the depth and complexity he possesses. Crisp writing and a multifaceted, likable central character distinguish this first novel. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 896 KB
  • Print Length: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBFT2
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,461,236 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is rare these days to be propelled through a novel by the sheer force of wanting to know what will happen next. A young writer who can, through both style and subject, achieve that kind of urgency is a rare find indeed. With his debut novel MAYBE A MIRACLE, Brian Strause proves to be just such a stroke of literary luck. He has developed a plot that is compulsively readable, while also achieving nuanced character development, wit and honesty in his prose.

Strause is a refreshing new voice in the female-dominated world of nuanced and quirky family dramas; tales that are deceptively small-scale --- depicting one family's very unique story --- but nevertheless have resounding impact. Nestled between the lines of this deceptively sweet, fable-esque story, fundamental issues of faith, family, life, death, voyeurism and the media play themselves out. Unlike many a modern novelist, Strause never makes the self-aggrandizing declaration that he will tackle these "big ideas" --- he is never politically preachy or socially smug.

Crucial to this novel's disarming nature --- and one of the key ways to Strause's tackling of grander themes without coming off as pompous or pretentious --- is its narrator, Monroe Anderson. Monroe is an exceptional voice, wry and cynical --- a perfectly believable teenage boy --- but with an innate sweetness that shines through despite his own best intentions. Monroe himself would loathe to be labeled as sweet, to be called optimistic or engaging, and yet readers will find themselves fully devoted to him, allowing him to paint the story as it unfolds. The story starts on the night of his senior prom as Monroe goes into his backyard to smoke a joint before he meets his girlfriend and finds his younger sister floating facedown in the pool.
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Format: Hardcover
From memorable characters to hilarious dialogue and one delightful plot twist after another, "Maybe a Miracle" should, by all rights, become the must-read novel of the new year. At a time when organized religion has coopted words like "faith" and "spirituality," it's nothing short of empowering when Strause effortlessly steals those words back for the rest of us. If you've forgotten how to believe ... well, read this book. You won't be disappointed :)
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Format: Hardcover
What a gem this book is! With a story as fresh and bizarre as you could hope for, and a young narrator that views the world through prematurely jaded eyes, this wonderful debut novel carries readers along on a weird new path through very familiar landscape. Set in suburban America, the lifestyle and characters are known to us all, but the family tragedy that turns life into an everyday circus makes "Maybe a Miracle" far more compelling than your average family drama. Monroe, the narrator, is a wonderful story teller-- his take on the events that unfold is cynical and wry, but with an unmistakable tenderness and longing for a return to normalcy. He wishes he could be more optimistic about the future of his comatose beloved little sister, but it doesn't seem to be in his nature. However, while he doubts his mother's certainty that Annika is "still in there", just to play it safe he plays Parliament Funkadelic records for her, to balance out the Neil Diamond their mother is blasting her with. His voice and his actions ring true on every page. But truer still are the confessions he makes to us, the readers. He tells us the things he would never speak aloud-- not to his parents, who probably wouldn't listen anyway, and certainly not to his sadistic older brother, who takes every word or action from Monroe as a new opportunity to humiliate and abuse him. But as the readers, we get to hear the whole story-- his bitterness, his fear, and his hope, quickly fading though it is. I found myself cheering him on at times, wanting to throttle him at others, but always caring what happened next. This book is touching, compelling, and very funny. My only disappointment is the book's title; "Maybe a Miracle" is far too lackluster and simpering to really give a reader any glimpse of how cool this book is.
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Format: Hardcover
This is exactly the book I've been waiting for. I picked up this book two days ago, and just finished it - I kept thinking I should savor it - since the writing is so amazing, but I literally couldn't put it down. I would say that Strause's writing places this book in the category of instant classic: seemingly effortless yet full of rich insight. I imediately identified with the dynamics of a family under unusual strain - adjusting and readjusting to shifting circumstances that are completey unexpected.

But my favorite thing about this book would have to be the narrator - Monroe. He joined the ranks of some of my favorite literary characters, occupying a vaulted place in my imagination-mostly because he made me laugh so hard at times with his searing observations that I was competely exhilirated by meeting him.

I not only recommend this book, I'm stuffing it in several stockings (yeah, they'll get stretched out of shape) this season.
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Format: Hardcover
It's the narrative voice that carries this book. The other characters are not as vivid and sometimes fall into cliches (the brother, particularly), but even then, protagonist Monroe's narration fills the gaps and tells the tale well, and with a dead-on take on teenage ennui that knows everything and nothing at the same time.
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