by Chocolate Frog Card
Like many of us throughout our lives, the narrator of Maybe A Miracle, Monroe Anderson, spends the novel wondering if miracles truly exist. On his way to get a quick high right before his senior prom, Monroe finds his eleven-year-old sister Annika face down in a swimming pool. While Monroe is able to rescue Annika and revive her, she slips into a coma and Monroe and his family are left with only the barest hope that Annika will ever awake. As strange happenings, apparent “miracles,” begin taking place around Annika, Monroe’s mother turns to religion, his father becomes an alcoholic, and Monroe begins his own journey of self-discovery.
While author Brian Strause tells a creative and captivating story, perhaps his true writing strength lies in his characters. Like J.K. Rowling’s, Strause’s characters are believable, truly human, and trigger every possible emotion from readers. While being inside Monroe’s head certainly gives readers a special connection with the narrator, Strause also paints perfect portraits of Monroe’s parents – his religious mother who looks for miracles around every turn, who at once is pitiable, insufferable, and yet a hero in her own right; his alcoholic father who displays the same unusual combination of traits; and his older brother Ben for whom readers, like Monroe, have only pure hatred at the beginning of the novel, but by the end is a person that readers and Monroe truly care about.
The most striking similarity that Potter fans will find between Maybe A Miracle and their most beloved series is the nature of the protagonists. While Monroe does not have magic up his sleeve, his biting sarcasm and dry wit are truly reminiscent of an older Harry. While Maybe A Miracle is told from the first person point of view and Harry Potter in third person limited, both novels are still ultimately tales of self-discovery. Like Harry, Monroe plays the role of the reluctant hero from the novel’s beginning to its climactic conclusion.
Having been compared to J.D. Salinger’s celebrated depiction of a troubled teen in Holden Caulfield, Strause’s teenaged narrator shares his story and presents his personality in a similar fashion. Potter audiences may be surprised by this writing style, one that is much more character and thought-driven, rather than action-oriented.
Another Potter ingredient that fans may miss is a worthy supporting cast. While Strause’s characters are perfectly crafted, Monroe often spends his time alone and has no real best friend to speak of. He begins the story with his girlfriend Emily, and eventually finds his way to another girl who truly understands him, but neither female serves as an equal counterpart. However, Annika, who spends the novel in a coma, is as fleshed out as one could hope for a character unable to speak, move, or share her thoughts, and she somewhat fills the void left by Monroe’s social awkwardness. Nevertheless, sidekick fans looking for a Ron or Hermione to cheer on may be disappointed.
Though Maybe A Miracle is devoid of elements of fantasy in the traditional sense, there is still magic within its pages. The miracles that take place and characters’ reactions to them bring a component of the fantastical. Still, Harry readers looking for worlds to play in and mythical creatures to populate them might not be satisfied with this realistic work.
“There are two ways to live your life
- believing everything is a miracle or that nothing is,” author Brian Strause quotes Albert Einstein at the beginning of this breathtaking first novel. Potter fans believe in magic, but do they believe in miracles?
This one does.
Strause, Brian. Maybe a Miracle. New York: Ballantine, 2005.