Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

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My Review:

After returning to Biloxi, Mississippi a veteran paraplegic, from an horrific event in Afghanistan, Cameron Harris lives with his sister Tanya, spends a lot of time drinking and manages to get around in a wheelchair.  From the death of his mother, to the damaging hurricane, to the war, Cameron has suffered his share.  And then one day while waiting for Tanya in the convenience store parking lot, he just stands up and starts to walk…was it a miracle, or was there a medical explanation?  After a Facebook post about what had taken place goes viral, the local and national media bombard Cameron with questions related to his recovery. Christians believe this was a miracle and proof of God, and even a lawyer sent by the Vatican arrives to investigate.  But Cameron is confused about what really happened; his is not driven by religion or faith, his doctor is unable to offer an explanation, and he has a difficult time living up to the American Hero persona that is being forced upon him by TV executives attempting to make a documentary about him.

When the Vatican investigator starts digging to interview the men Cameron served with in the war, a huge secret is revealed that impacts what people believe. As Cameron questions himself and the discovery forces the public to reexamine their explanations, religion and science are up against each other in this search for the truth.

Anatomy of a Miracle is a novel written as if it is true…the highest form of Fake News.  Several chapters were quite dense due to the investigative nature and reporting style of writing, but the recap of what went on in Afghanistan and the character development that went along with that gave me great understanding of Cameron.  I enjoyed this book; it touched on several topics from religious beliefs, medical science, identity, celebrity and truth, while providing insight into how different types of people assess what is around them and how they work it to their advantage.

While trying to understand one’s fate and purpose, often people infuse a bit of imagination to feed their own agenda and to support their beliefs.  “Imagination isn’t just seeing what’s not there. Imagination is also what we use to figure out why what’s there is the way it is.”  Anatomy of a Miracle is SJP’s latest pick for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central.

As Seen on 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?

Brilliantly written as closely observed journalistic reportage and filtered through a wide lens that encompasses the vibrant characters affected by Cameron’s story, Anatomy of a Miracle will be read, championed, and celebrated as a powerful story of our time, and the work of a true literary master.

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About the Author:

JONATHAN MILES is the author of the novels Dear American Airlines and Want Not, both New York Times Notable Books. His latest novel, Anatomy of a Miracle: The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace, is published by Crown/Hogarth.

Dear American Airlines was named a Best Book of 2008 by the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Amazon.com, and others. It was also a finalist for the QPB New Voices Award, the Borders Original Voices Award, and the Great Lakes Book Award, and has been translated into six languages.

Want Not was named a best or favorite book of 2013 by Kirkus Reviews, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, bookish.com, bookriot.com, and litReactor.com, and was a finalist for the 2014 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award in Fiction.

He is a former columnist for the New York Times and has served as a contributing editor to a wide range of national magazines. His journalism has been included numerous times in the annual Best American Sports Writing and Best American Crime writing anthologies.

A former longtime resident of Oxford, Mississippi, he currently lives along the Delaware River in rural New Jersey.

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