October 24, 2005 12:00 PM

By Brian Strause

When 18-year-old Monroe Anderson finds his sister facedown in the family pool, he hauls her from the water and desperately attempts CPR. She falls into a coma, though, and curious things begin to happen: Rose petals rain from the sky, she develops stigmata, and sick people are spontaneously cured. As Monroe’s mother drifts into rote faith and his father turns to booze, Miracle delivers an incisive portrayal of religion, family and the meaning of miracles in an era of spiritual disarray. First-time novelist Strause creates a work that is laugh-out-loud funny (there’s a wild crash involving a statue of Christopher Columbus), provocative and unique.

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