Miracle Jamieson is negotiating being a teenager in small town Boorunga. She worries about her freckles, pines after her first love, Oli, and puts up with the school bullies. She obeys her cohort’s random rules: “For Year 9 girls, eating at school was even less cool than wearing a jumper”. She finds her dad embarrassing, and her mum hopeless. Things are pretty stink really, but Miracle has no idea how much worse things are going to get!
Miracle was born in the throes of a massive earthquake that caused her brother Julian chronic trauma. She is concerned about an upcoming school debate: the massive earthquake caused Boorunga’s curse V Boorunga was the site of the earthquake because it is cursed. If she caused the quake that caused the curse, she might be responsible for the alarming number of “weird deaths” occurring in Boorunga.
She is worried about the debate and the deaths, but then Miracle’s father, Jim, is taken away under suspicion of having beaten a boy into a coma. The weight of another source of guilt is almost too much for Miracle to bear. When Jim lost his postie job it was sort of Miracle’s fault that he ended up working at Compassionate Cremations, where the beating occurred. The business had moved into town when Miller’s Funerals suddenly shut down, which raised questions about why, and the link between the crematorium and the rising death rate.
Miracle is a staunch young woman. She is determined to exonerate her father. Her family have become pariahs, and she longs to regain her friends. She fiercely protects her unstable mum and her strange, uncanny, beautiful brother. She thinks the only people on her side are her aunt’s family, but they just want to keep Miracle safe, and she won’t solve anything by being kept safe. She comes up with a series of suspects to clear her father, and she discovers alarming things about people she knows. She is full of ideas, but most go nowhere, and Miracle rapidly finds she “needed a plan D”. But her persistence won’t allow her to give up.
As with her first novel, All Our Secrets, in Miracle, Jennifer Lane gives us great mystery storytelling from the point of view of a young woman. Gracie was 11 in All Our Secrets, Miracle is 14. It is a great device for an unreliable narrator, unreliable not due to pathology or ill intent, just because of the personal intensity with which many young people view the world: Taking all the blame, dealing with raw emotions, freely expressing prejudices, lying with ease, feeling responsible for those around them: “She might see that I wasn’t as mental as the rest of my family”.
The characters in Miracle are vivid. At the denouement I had come to know Miracle so well that I was really concerned for her safety. Her family are complex and interesting, her friends are living through their own stresses, and Sergeant Nick is a quite unexpected take. Even the woman across the road gets a fleeting backstory. Miracle discovers there are some whose lives are “a whole new level of hell”. And along with Miracle, the reader comes to re-evaluate events in the novel. Some people are misunderstood, some worse than you might ever imagine, and many just ordinary, damaged, but kind people.
I really enjoyed reading Miracle. It is suitable for adult or young adult readers.