Miriam's Well

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Miriam and Adam have little in common--indeed, they hardly know each other until a high-school English assignment pairs them up. Miriam is a fundamental Christian and Adam an areligious Jew; when Miriam is diagnosed with bone cancer, their backgrounds become an integral part of the story. Miriam's faith does not allow for modern medicine, but she is a minor and the court system forces her to enter a hospital. Adam's father, meanwhile, agrees to represent Miriam in her fight against being treated. Ruby's ( Arriving at a Place You've Never Left ) narrative device--alternating chapters told by the two protagonists--adds an engaging verisimilitude; both voices are particularly distinctive and true-to-type. In sum, the novel explores a powerful issue--faith in God versus faith in doctors--with a carefuly balanced viewpoint. The author manages to remain impartial as she paints lifelike and sympathetic portraits of two complex adolescents. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-- Miriam Pelham and Adam Bergen are assigned as partners for an English class project. He is happy-go-lucky, lazy, popular, and Jewish. She is quiet, serious, and a member of an evangelical sect. Her Sword and the Spirit Church believes that illness is a sign of weakness and/or wrong doing, and reject all medical treatment. When Miriam collapses in front of Adam and his take-charge girlfriend, Diana, they take her to an emergency clinic and she is made a ward of the court. To Adam's consternation, his social-activist, lawyer father decides to represent the church in its First Amendment defense. Adam finds himself surprisingly drawn to Miriam, and a romance develops. She is treated for bone cancer with court-ordered chemotherapy and radiation, along with touch therapy performed by a Buddhist doctor. In the end, Miriam is indeed well and all diverse groups claim victory. Through the course of the story, cynical Adam begins to mature into a likable, caring individual. Miriam also begins to exhibit some independence, understanding, and inner beauty. Alternating narrative chapters between the two add an understanding of diverse viewpoints. Ruby covers all schools of thought in a sympathetic, informative manner. The picture of the church is not all favorable; Miriam's mother is subservient. Loose ends, such as Miriam's father's whereabouts and whether the cancer will reoccur, add reality and points for thought-provoking discussions.-- Susan Rosenkoetter, Rochester Public Library, NY
Stephanie Zvirin
Miriam Pellham has bone cancer, but the small religious sect to which she belongs prohibits medical intervention. Unaware of that, Miriam's classmate Adam Bergen, who's a chronic high school underachiever, and another classmate take her to the hospital, an act that leads to a confrontation between hospital officials and Miriam's church that changes not only Miriam's life, but also Adam's. Through Adam's and Miriam's perspectives, Ruby explores the boundaries of religious freedom while spinning a story about teenagers in love. The book's pace is slow, and there's a great deal going on--Miriam reexamines her faith and struggles with her growing attachment to Adam; Adam seeks direction in his life and tries to understand Miriam's religious commitment; First Amendment principles are tested. But the characters are drawn with care and without prejudice: Miriam is devout--not fanatic--and she's more comfortable with being an "outsider" than is Adam, who is Jewish. Ruby avoids both the sentimental and the expected in her plot, and she carefully refrains from taking sides in the basic argument. In that way, we're challenged to explore our own feelings about the healing power of faith and about the value of medical science, even about the worth of alternative therapy. At the same time, we can relish a good story.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590449380
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/1995
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • Age range: 12 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Lois Ruby
Lois Ruby is a versatile and accomplished novelist who has written books for middle-graders and young adults. Among the many awards she has won are: ALA Best Book for Young Adults and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age for Arriving at a Place You’ve Never Left (1977); ALA Best Book for Young Adults, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age for Miriam’s Well (1994); Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies and the IRA Young Adult Choice selection for Steal Away Home (1995). A former young adult librarian, Ms.
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