Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
When heroine Miracle McCloy's mother dies before her birth she is seen by her spiritualist grandmother as "a live baby coming out of the body of a dead woman" and named accordingly. Miracle's life seems a nightmare where reality and the spirit world vie for control. She wears only purple, lights protective candles, and puts aside urges to dance to escape unnamed evils. Miracle's responses made me squirm until I realized Nolan's intention, and her gift for effective use of voice. It is not until the end that we discover Miracle lives her life on the edge of madness created by her grandmother's misinterpretations. When reality is reinstated, Miracle's worldview, fears, confusions and actions make total sense. This winner of the National Book Award is an uncomfortable read.
VOYA - Patricia Morrow
Miracle became her name, given by her grandmother. Her mother was killed in an accident and she was delivered-a miracle. Raised by grandmother Gigi, a clairvoyant, and Dane, her reclusive writer father, Miracle is constantly fed half-truths about the past and the present. Her father was a prodigy and so should she be. But Miracle develops her own style, based on Gigi's instruction about color and aura, and receives her only affection from Dane in his writing "cave." Life goes along fine, although she has no friends and does not always succeed in school. She dislikes her Aunt Casey and Uncle Toole, the most normal-seeming people in her world. When she is ten, Dane disappears; we do not know what happens to him, but Miracle and Gigi accept the explanation of "melting," since he left his clothes behind surrounded by candles. Miracle takes us on a first-person account of new homes and family crises. Her behavior is far from normal. She reasons based on magic principles, dances so wildly she bruises herself, wears her father's bathrobe in public, replicates his cave, and becomes a weaver of magic spells for the girls at school. But Miracle internalizes the blame for all the family accidents, believing that is the reason no one wants her. In a frenzy of dance and candle burning, she catches herself on fire and wakes up in a hospital. The last part of the book deals with her recovery, triggered by some Emily Dickinson poetry and guided by a psychologist, with help from Aunt Casey and hindrance from Gigi. Miracle begins to identify the truth in what she knows and to fill in the gaps of her understanding. While the characters here are well drawn and have their warmth in spite of problems, there is something missing in keeping the story plausible. As much as we follow Miracle's self-destruction, there is not always a convincing picture of the way her mind reshapes reality, and much of her thinking seems too rational to permit such self-deception. As long as it took to sink to her lowest point, Miracle's recovery seems much too quick and miraculous. Young readers, while hoping for such ready cures, will not necessarily find them believable. The device of Dickinson's poetry is trite. This numbing book will be read by those who favor the personal journey to crisis and recovery, but it will not satisfy them the way many others have. [Editor's Note: This book is the winner of the 1997 National Book Award, Young People's Literature.] VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
Raised by her grandmother Gigi in an atmosphere of mystical rules and beliefs, Miracle McCloy is constantly reminded that she was rescued from the womb of a dead woman-a "miracle" birth-and that she is expected to become a prodigy, much like Dane, her moody novelist father. When Gigi claims that Dane has "melted" and can't be found Miracle devotes all of her energies to contacting him and bringing him back. Her descent into a reclusive imaginary world strikes bottom when she sets herself on fire in a desperate dance among lit candles. In the hospital she meets Dr. DeAngelis, a young psychiatrist who helps her to discover the truth about her life. Adolescent girls searching for something different to read will enjoy this unique, well-written story.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up--Raised in one of the world's most dysfunctional families, Miracle makes a harrowing journey to the brink of insanity before taking tentative steps to reclaim her life. A compassionate novel written with sensitivity and pathos. (Sept.)
Charting the near-destruction of a child's soul at the hands of the self-centered, bickering adults around her, Nolan (Send Me Down a Miracle, 1996, etc.) dives into the mind of an emotionally disturbed girl in an intense, exceptionally well-written novel.
Miracle McCloy grows from a lonely ten-year-oldraised by her well-meaning, clairvoyant, but steeped-in-denial grandmotherto a silent and troubled teen. Her mother's death and father's abandonment make Miracle feel that she doesn't exist, so she floats through life as a nonentity, a bystander. At 14, she has a breakdown and severely burns herself. Institutionalized, with the help of a kindly doctor and heroic Aunt Casey, Miracle is forced to confront her family's secrets and uncover the truth about herself. While the characters initially seem like stereotypical Southern eccentrics, Nolan skillfully discloses their true natures, allowing them to blossom on the page. The book ends on a note of hope, as Miracle takes steps toward contentment and begins to participate fully in her own life. The shadows of truth, suffering, self-expression, and repression are examined without psychobabble in this sad, funny, and tender story.
From the Publisher
"Nolan does a masterful job of drawing readers into the girl's mind and of making them care deeply about her chances for the future."--School Library Journal
"Exceptionally well-written . . . [A] sad, funny, and tender story."--Kirkus Reviews