The Washington PostSue Phong, a deaf 30-year-old Vietnamese-American woman, occupies the enigmatic center of Keith Scribner's fascinating novel Miracle Girl. She is widely credited with miraculously curing deafness in others, and that is enough to create a stampede of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic pilgrims to the Little Saigon section of Hudson City, N.Y, where she lives. If Phong is not exactly smoke and mirrors, she is surely mystery and shadow. Sanford Pinsker
Publishers WeeklyWritten with a simplicity that mirrors the development of the plot, this well-crafted second novel demonstrates Scribner's (The Good Life) solid, noirish accessibility and talent for detailed characterizations. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Quinn, known to friends and co-workers by his last name, is in his mid-30s and working as a real estate salesman for the Catholic Church in upstate Hudson City, N.Y., as the city lurches out of decades of stasis. A live-in romance with the increasingly distant Rita competes with a variety of business deals that threaten to leave him in a professional and personal quagmire. When the mysterious Sue Phong, the titular miracle girl, gains media attention for an assortment of healing phenomena for which she may or may not be responsible, the Church is pressured either to label the incidents as works of God or to dismiss them as an elaborate sham. The city is in an uproar, and Quinn unexpectedly finds himself having to take a stand. As he gets closer to Sue and to an understanding of what makes her tick, he is forced to question the genuineness of his own life and abandons caution to find the answers before he, along with everyone else desperate to be touched by the "miracle" girl, loses something irreplaceable. While telling details sum up characters swiftly and decisively, some of the dialogue (particularly among minor characters) shades into boilerplate. This contemplative foray into the beliefs and decisions that shape the lives of individuals and communities is funny, gritty and tender, but Scribner doesn't quite fit all of Quinn's feelings into his words and actions. (Sept. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library JournalIn this follow-up to his successful debut novel, The Goodlife, Scribner focuses on the commercialism of religious fervor. In the dying industrial town of Hudson City, NY, a deaf Vietnamese American girl named Sue Phong begins appearing in people's dreams and healing their ailments. As the media pick up the story, throngs of worshipers flock into the city, creating a financial boom. The impact of these miracles on the residents of Hudson City is narrated by John Quinn, a space planner for the Catholic Church, who has been taking bribes from a sleazy developer named Buddy Jensen. As it becomes more and more likely that Hudson City will grow into a commercial healing site, Quinn finds himself trapped between the money and power around him and the disillusionment in his personal life. He discovers that "people who don't have faith in anything don't have miracles." It is only when Quinn decides to help Sue Phong escape from the city and destroy the growing commercialism that he finds a cure for his own failings. This is a well-crafted story with real characters and an astute insight into the lack of principles in our contemporary culture. Clearly, Scribner is a writer to watch. Highly recommended.-David A. Beron , Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsThe author of The Good Life (1999) returns with his second: a hard-hitting, at times sidesplitting tale of trust, temptation, and redemption. Hudson City is a bust, a pockmark on New York's upstate. You can't even buy good coffee in this tired industrial town. Then Sue, a lovely Afro-Asian, is linked to a strange healing; citizens and officials insist, for reasons not entirely spiritual, that a miracle has occurred. People dream about the Miracle Girl, and, presto, kidney stones are dissolved, that sort of thing. Soon, pilgrims throng to the city, accompanied by oppressively hot winds. But the miracle plays the devil on Quinn, a lapsed Catholic employed by his diocese to sell Church properties. It's all he can do to drive the big, blunt, "shut this [miracle] down" Bishop through crowds. (In one of the funnier scenes, the Bishop orders him to defy a police barrier.) Things worsen when Quinn, who made a pile calculating available square footage for a prior employer, is asked to work his old magic to house pilgrims. His arduous schedule coincides with three dilemmas: romantic (his girlfriend, to whom he long ago gave herpes, has grown mysteriously distant), moral (a slick-speaking "friend" proposes a shady deal with the city's chief landowner), and spiritual (his televised fainting spell, promptly spun as religious ecstasy, leaves him confused). Scribner plants his hero knee-deep in scruples, revealing the gray side of corruption, its agonizing logic and bantering alliances. We experience up-close the weather, temper, and architecture of a city hobbled enough to justify extreme gambits; we root for a couple who cling to their fading relationship, and their fading town, with a stubbornnessbordering on piety. Some touches chafe-ours is a hero who takes the measure of himself in the mirror and hasn't had a dream he can't remember; his meditations on physical space feel strained; Sue seems a trifle underwritten-but, overall, these are quibbles. A riotously edifying take on civic and private responsibility in an age of elaborate morals.
- Penguin Group (USA)
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.30(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.94(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 Years
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Miracle Girl based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
A vain attempt to build up a momentum 'à la Tom Wolfe' that fails miserably. A book with far too many words for very little substance, which slowly sinks the reader into boredom.
Perhaps the only subject less discussed than class in American society is faith, and Scribner takes it on here from all angles. Is Sue Phong, a deaf Vietnamese woman, really channeling the Virgin Mary to produce miracles in decrepit Hudson City, NY? Or is it a publicity stunt? If a stunt, whose? Hers? The Catholic archdiocese? (Attendance at mass is way down.) The Chamber of Commerce? (Those pilgrims gotta eat. And book hotel rooms.) These cynical questions ricochet inside the mind of our hero, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Quinn, a thirty-something born on the day of the assassination (a fatal blow to faith itself) and currently employed as a real estate agent for the archdiocese. Quinn, as he¿s known, is embroiled in an early onset midlife crisis. He can¿t really figure out how he wound up where he is ¿ or where he stands with his longtime live-in girlfriend, the ultra-flexible yoga enthusiast, Rita. Does his problem truly reside ¿ as Rita alleges ¿ in the fact that he doesn¿t believe in anything? The first page of this novel is perhaps the tautest piece of writing you¿ll read this year. The rest of it is by turns titillating (Scribner writes terrific sex), thought-provoking and hilarious. A great read.