Miracle Man

Miracle Man

by Ben Schrank, Schrank. Ben

Twenty-one-year-old Martin Kelly Minter knows what he wants: a meaningful relationship with his beautiful Puerto Rican neighbor, Luz, and a place in history as a modern-day Robin Hood. A college dropout trying to escape his middle-class childhood, Kelly works for the Miracle Moving company. Every day he wonders if the people he moves appreciate what they have.


Twenty-one-year-old Martin Kelly Minter knows what he wants: a meaningful relationship with his beautiful Puerto Rican neighbor, Luz, and a place in history as a modern-day Robin Hood. A college dropout trying to escape his middle-class childhood, Kelly works for the Miracle Moving company. Every day he wonders if the people he moves appreciate what they have. Thinking the answer is no, he steals from them, and gives food and money to people on the New York City streets. An on a cold winter day he bakes bread, hoping the heat of it outside their Spanish Harlem building will seduce Luz. Kelly tries hard to do right, but when an art dealer offers him a chance to make big-time money as a bigger-time theif, he thinks thievery is his destiny — until he discovers that the world is a far more complicated place than he always believed.

Editorial Reviews

Village Voice
Incisive Ben Schrank conjures love as disconnection, an ache that feels filling, as a young man swallows an attraction, knowing that romance makes everything okay and also becomes an opportunity to hate closeness.
What's most refreshing about Schrank: He infuses his main character with pure, unbridled longing, which few writers in this aloof age allow themselves to do.
Autumn De Leon
"Ben Schrank 's debut novel, Miracle Man is a brilliantly observed story about the desire to live in an egalitarian world. The protagonist, Martin Kelly Minter, is a white middle-class son of hippie schoolteachers who finds himself increasingly troubled by the socioeconomic inequality that he sees all around him. He also happens to be a kleptomaniac. Kelly's crusade to redistribute the world's wealth begins when he drops out of Vassar, moves into an illegal sublet in Spanish Harlem and takes a job with the Miracle Moving company, which specializes in relocating rich clients. "The only remnants of Kelly's past that survive his ideological overhaul and self-exile from his family are his relationship with his childhood "brother," a Puerto Rican Fresh Air Fund kid named Felix, and their shared devotion to theft. As a Miracle mover, Kelly pockets small valuables and gives them to Luz, his girlfriend and fellow criminal, or buys food for the neighborhood homeless. Still, he never manages to feel "full." He finds he can't change the world or heal his own heart with petty crime. His eventual shift into large-scale art theft fails to solve this central problem. "Schrank, who was himself a moving man as well as a teacher in Harlem, creates a protagonist who, despite his moral shortcomings, remains an affable presence. Imbued with streetwise passion, Schrank's characters expose a frustrated fringe society that simply wants to feel comfortable."
LA Times
Ben Schrank 's impressive first novel is about a guy named Martin Kelly Minter, who decides that stealing from rich people is the only way to save "our brothers who had been near irretrievably lost in the nasty thicket that is unearned wealth."...With Kelly, Schrank has created an appealingly reticent rogue who--for all his good intentions and distaste for phoniness--cannot escape the contradictions of desire, class, altruism and blowing money on shoes at Barneys.
New Yorker
Kelly, a college dropout living in Spanish Harlem, is falling in love--with Luz, a Puerto Rican girl in his building, and with the act of stealing from the swank apartment buildings a few blocks south, where every street 'would most definitely be private if it didn't have to be public.' The stealing, initially of the Robin Hood variety, escalates until Kelly is forced to question why, exactly, he's breaking the law; as ethical lines blur, Schrank makes New York seem sharp and new.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Both a muscular and witty adventure and the moving coming-of-age story of a middle-class youth who determinedly slides down the social scale, Schranks debut discloses a promising talent. Kelly Minter begins his rebellion against his ultra-liberal parents expectations by dropping out of Vassar and taking a job at Miracle Movers in Manhattan. A petty thief since his Puerto Rican Fresh Air Fund brother initiated him to its thrills, he soon begins pocketing small items from the houses of his customers, attempting to redeem himself by making handouts to destitute strangers. Meanwhile, hes trying to seduce Luz, a beautiful, tough single mother, a petty criminal herself. Wytold, first a customer and then a boss, offers Kelly the chance to make fortunes through large-scale art theft, and soon Kelly is renting a $7000-a-month apartment just off Park Avenue. His first act upon moving into his luxurious digs is to order a restaurants entire menu delivered to his door. After eating every last bite, he collapses, a wretched poster child for excess and for the unquenchable needs he is seeking to fill. Soon, unforeseen complications drain his pocketbook and his energies, ending his ragtag Robin Hood career. Kellys life is desperate and isolated; big takes are all the smaller for the thiefs lack of lasting gratification. Although his streetwise voice steers the book, other voices, such as the heartless and demanding Wytold and Kellys self-righteous older brother, a plastic surgeon, provide perspective and contrast. Describing Kellys deliberate steps toward criminal behavior, Schranks matter-of-fact prose is lucid and immediate, rendering each of Kellys painful or flippant thoughts resonant and consequential. In the end, Kellys hard-earned wisdomcomprising street smarts and emotional maturitytouches the readers heart. (June) FYI: Schranks monthly column for Seventeen, Bens Life, was optioned by Disney/Touchstone television.
Kirkus Reviews
Robin Hood makes a new appearance, this time on the streets of Spanish Harlem, in Schrank's debut about the travails of an honest thief trying to make his living in Manhattan in the 1990s. Kelly Minter is the kind if willful loser you rarely encounter outside big cities. Although he was born in the New York City, his parents moved the family to a farm in Pennsylvania when Kelly and his brother Kevin were still boys. But Kelly couldn't stay away, dropping out of college and heading straight back to Manhattan while still in his teens. The crime and vice that drove the Minters away holds a kind of fascination for young Kelly ("You left because you and Dad are cowards. Here is where it's important to be. Leaving here is wrong"), who moves into Spanish Harlem and begins to learn the ways of the poor. Through his childhood friend Felix (a Fresh-Air Fund kid who spent summers on the Minters' Pennsylvania farm), Kelly finds work as a furniture mover. He also falls in love with Luz, a beautiful Puerto Rican girl from the neighborhood whom he dreams of marrying. But trudging day in and day out through the homes of the rich has a corrosive effect, and Kelly decides that the well-off don't deserve what they have. So he and Felix begin to lift a few items here and there while moving people in and out. Eventually, Kelly discovers how easy it is for movers to burgle an apartment, and he and Felix set themselves up in a big way, with dummy bank accounts full of laundered money and warehouses full of priceless objets d'art. It may be his way to fortune, but it causes problems for Luz, whose poor-but-honest father finds out about Kelly and threatens to kill him if he comes near his daughter again. Willlove triumph over greed? Readable enough, if thoroughly predictable and none too mature: a workable first effort if little more.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.89(d)

What People are saying about this

Ishmael Reed
Ben Schrank is my kind of writer. Hip, engaging, and without an ounce of fat on his prose.
John Casey
The hero of Miracle Man, Martin Kelly Minter, is in a lot of ways a child of Holden Caulfield. A mix of world-saving seriousness, naive criminality and green-gage sensuality, the boy is bound to get sand-bagged by the grown-up world...He is fresh and vital, uttering keen, occasionally brilliant commentary as he walks haplessly towards one open manhole after another.
Blake Nelson
In this rough and tumble coming of age novel, Kelly Minter must reconcile the idealism he has been raised with and the harsh realities of street level New York City. A stylish and intriguing first novel.
Pagan Kennedy
I love the way Ben Schrank writes sentences: he flicks them like whips, so that they snap their tails with little cracks of truth. Schrank follows a logic that is surreal, surprising and all his own.

Meet the Author

Ben Schrank has been a furniture mover, a teacher, and a bike messenger. He won a Goldwater Fellowship at New York University's graduate writing program. His monthly column for Seventeen magazine, "Ben's Life," was recently optioned by Disney/Touchstone television. He lives in New York City. Miracle Man is his first book.

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