Name of Book: The Miracle Stealer
Author: Neil Connelly
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books, An Imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Audience: Grade 7 and up
Summary: Six-year-old Daniel is the “miracle boy” of Paradise, Pennsylvania. People come from near and far because of his reputed healing powers. When a new wave of Daniel hysteria threatens to overtake the town, Daniel’s nineteen-year-old sister Anderson decides to take action to prove once and for all that her little brother is just a regular kid with no miraculous powers.
Literary elements at work in the story: Anderson’s candid first-person narration makes this novel read like a good memoir. As she struggles to make sense of her family and of her town and of the events which have led to her own crisis of faith, the people who populate her life emerge as rich and complicated characters. One crucial summer in Andi’s recent past provides the catalyst for this attempt at understanding her life. The plot of the story becomes somewhat knotty as she examines the interwoven events which lead to the story’s climax.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? In her bitterness over the role she thinks the church has played in her family’s troubles, Andi ridicules the Universal Church of Paradise in particular and religion in general. Belief in God is something that is behind her, and followers are made to look like gullible yokels. However, as Andi continues her story, she admits that there are mysteries which she cannot explain, including those surrounding her brother.
Theological conversation partners: This is a story of a lost paradise. The fish in Paradise, PA have died in the lake, the amusement park is abandoned, and the tourists no longer come for the summer. This tangible disintegration echoes Anderson’s loss of spiritual innocence. Her father has abandoned the family, and she sees members of the religious community as dupes at best and frauds at worst. There was a time “back when things were right and I thought God was there with us, hovering above and listening attentively,” Anderson remembers, but that time is long gone. This book would be a good one to use with teens or even adults in conjunction with the Genesis 3 story of the Fall in a discussion of what it means to have a mature faith.
Faith talk questions:
- You might divide the Grant family’s life into “before” and “after.” What do you think their life was like before Daniel’s accident? How was it different afterwards?
- Why do people think that Daniel has miraculous powers?
- Why does Anderson, “Andi,” want people to leave Daniel alone?
- Why do you think the Pilgrims decided to follow Daniel?
- Leo tells Andi, “Faith is accepting possibilities, not absolutes.” How can faith be about possibilities?
- Andi ends this story with the answer “maybe.” Do you think that “maybe” is a hopeful answer? Why or why not?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Beth Lyon-Suhring.