Tag Archives: literary fiction

Review of Anatomy of a Miracle, by Jonathan Miles

I initially won a paperback copy of Jonathan MilesAnatomy of a Miracle through Goodreads. But lacking in time to sit and read lately, but interested none the less, I opted to borrow the audio version from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Rendered paraplegic after a traumatic event four years ago, Cameron Harris has been living his new existence alongside his sister, Tanya, in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi neighborhood where only half the houses made it through Katrina. One stiflingly hot August afternoon, as Cameron sits waiting for Tanya during their daily run to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, he suddenly and inexplicably rises up and out of his wheelchair.

In the aftermath of this “miracle,” Cameron finds himself a celebrity at the center of a contentious debate about what’s taken place. And when scientists, journalists, and a Vatican investigator start digging, Cameron’s deepest secrets–the key to his injury, to his identity, and, in some eyes, to the nature of his recovery–become increasingly endangered. Was Cameron’s recovery a genuine miracle, or a medical breakthrough? And, finding himself transformed into a symbol, how can he hope to retain his humanity?

Review:

As I said above, I won this book and I’m really glad I did, because I almost certainly wouldn’t have picked it up on my own. I’ll grant that it’s a little overly long (though I think the fact that I listened to it made this a little more bearable) and slow, but the subtitles of the story are well worth the read. This book hands you nothing, it lays things on the table and invites you to consider them. I appreciated that a lot.

Were there times I wanted Cameron to open up and speak more, so that I could understand him better, for things to be a bit more obvious? Yes! But that wouldn’t have fit his character and honestly, this isn’t a story about Cameron. It’s the story of his miracle, if a miracle it be (this being a crucial question). And if the author had taken the easy route of allowing Cameron to hand the reader a pat answer, it wouldn’t be anywhere as good a book.

I did spend a lot of time afraid it was going to go the way of so much literary fiction and end in unbearable tragedy, but it didn’t. And the huge sigh of relief at the end was worth the anxiety.

I don’t think this will be a book everyone will enjoy. But I really did. And Edoardo Ballerini’s narration was no small part of this. He does an excellent job.

Review of How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center

I borrowed an audio copy of How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment . 

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect. 

Review (with spoiler):

To my complete surprise, I really enjoyed this. Plus, even though I have the paperback, I’m really glad I decided to go with the audio version. Because I think Plummer‘s performance only contributed to my enjoyment. 

How to Walk Away deals with some tragic topics. There’s the accident and subsequent paralyzation of the main character, but also all of the innumerable ways she is further victimized by the people around her; most without ever intending to be cruel. But these were balanced with a wry humor and the lightness of support from unexpected (and often resented) corners. Maggie’s sister especially was a star of the book for me. 

I of course realize that in real life Ian falling in love with Maggie would cross some serious ethical lines (and this is addressed in the book), but in the confines of fiction, I thought the romance was very sweet. And I can not say how happy I am that Center chose not to give Maggie any miraculous recovery. Maggie learned to happy with life with her injury, to live life and find meaning while in her wheel chair. This makes for a much more meaningful story than one in which a character is “fixed.” All in all, a true win in my opinion.

Review of The Perfect Mother, by Aimee Molloy

I initially won a paperback copy of Aimee Molloy‘s The Perfect Mother through Goodreads. However, in order to get it read, I chose to borrow an audio copy of it from the library for a road trip.

Description:

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

Review:

Honestly, this is a hard one for me to review. There are certain kinds of books that I just don’t particularly enjoy, and this is one of them. Of course, I didn’t realize that until I’d gotten into the book, and that left me with the choice to DNF or muscle through it. I chose to finish it. Being objective, the writing is perfectly readable and (as I had the audio-book) the narration by Cristin Milioti is very good as well. But 9.5 hours of new mother anxiety nearly broke me.

I’ll grant that any woman who has had children in the last decade or so will recognize the pressure to be perfect, the mommy competition, the stress and anxiety caused by parenting an infant in the world of social media, etc. (I imagine every generation has some version of this). But any positive feeling engendered by relating to this aspect of the characters was eclipsed by the fact that the mothers (and one father) of this book were basically neurotic. Yes, parenting a newborn is hard. Yes, the characters of this book are subjected to additional stressors. But 300+ pages of “OMG, my Baaaaby!” felt like about an eternity to me. I hated them all by the end.

I suppose the best I can say is that if you like this sort of book, the sort where women agonize over being women, then read this. For me, I’m just glad to be finished.