Summary and book reviews of Maybe A Miracle by Brian Strause

Maybe A Miracle

by Brian Strause

Maybe A Miracle
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 384 pages

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Book Summary

By turns humorous and heartbreaking, personal and sweeping, familiar and extraordinary, Brian Strause's first novel takes readers on an unforgettable emotional journey into America's heartland.

In this disarming debut, Brian Strause has written a vastly entertaining novel about an American family transfixed by a series of mysterious events. From a comfortable suburb of Columbus, Ohio, emerges a story of rebellion, faith and hope, bridging the cultural gap between those who believe in miracles and those who wish they could.

Monroe Anderson - as quiet on the outside as he is sardonic and alive on the inside - has spent most of his eighteen years trying to fly beneath the radar. If he can remain invisible, he believes, his sadistic older brother, a rising golf star, might not torment him, his workaholic father, a renowned litigator, might not notice him long enough to be disappointed, and his mother might not have to struggle so hard to find a hopeful word. The only people who glimpse the real Monroe are his girlfriend, Emily, and his eleven-year-old sister, Annika.

On the night of his senior prom, Monroe finds Annika floating facedown in the family pool. He dives in and rescues her, but not quickly enough to prevent her from slipping into a coma. As the family copes with this crisis, Monroe's mother turns to religion, his father turns to liquor, and Monroe himself must decide what's worth believing in, what's worth fighting for, and, finally, who he wants to be.

By turns humorous and heartbreaking, personal and sweeping, familiar and extraordinary, Brian Strause's mesmerizing novel takes readers on an unforgettable emotional journey into America's heartland.

Chapter 1

There's a bow tied around my neck and I'm dying for a smoke.

Tonight's the senior prom and there's no way I'm going to get through this ordeal sober. I wouldn't be going at all, but I promised my girlfriend, Emily. She said the prom only happens once in your life and I'd regret it if I blew the whole thing off. "Humor me," she said. On the off chance she's right, I agreed to take her—a decision I now regret.

I figure if I catch a buzz before I pick her up, maybe the night won't be a total disaster. Emily always says she can't stand being around stoners, but then again she can never tell when I'm stoned.

Besides, there's no use complaining now. I have the whole thing lined up—the black tux, the white limo, the red corsage. I even rented a room at the Hyatt. It's something you're supposed to do, I guess. It's not like I think some cheesy hotel room will make Emily want to sleep ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why do you think the author chose the quote from Albert Einstein to serve as the epigraph for Maybe a Miracle, and how does it apply to the main characters of the novel? Do you agree with Einstein's contention?

  2. Beginning with its title, the novel raises questions about the existence and nature of miracles. According to Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, the word can refer to "an extraordinary event taken to manifest the supernatural power of God fulfilling his purposes," "an event or effect in the physical world deviating from the laws of nature," and "an accomplishment or occurrence so outstanding or unusual as to seem beyond human capability or ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Strause's first novel is fast gathering momentum as one of the 'it' books for 2005. With its teenage protagonist, Maybe A Miracle has the potential to appeal to readers from the older teens through to adults, both men and women; and with subject matter that runs the gauntlet of hot topic subjects, including religion and politics, this is also a shoe-in for book clubs who enjoy a little contention in their reading matter...   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (127 words).

Media Reviews

People Magazine

First time novelist Strause creates a work that is laugh-out loud funny ... provocative and unique. - 4 stars (out of 4).

Publishers Weekly

The metaphysical runs up against the mundane with darkly comic ambiguity..... Monroe's barbed detachment and biting sarcasm, tempered by the awe that steals over him at unguarded moments, hold the reader even when the plot crawls.

Kirkus Reviews

An original take on a boy's coming-of-age and a sly, thoughtful look at the complexities of faith.

Library Journal - Beth E. Andersen

Monroe is a captivating narrator who will both delight and outrage readers while also making them think; nothing escapes his dead-on riffs about today's tumultous political and religious landscape. Sure to hit the book club circuit with a vengeance, this debut is highly recommended.

Author Blurb Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Breakdown Lane
As tender as a slow dance, as rebellious as a hip-hop song.... Brian Strause manages to convince the reader that mere human life is the greatest sin and salvation--with room for belief, betrayal, the beneficence of baseball, folly, and forgiveness.

Author Blurb Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Stone That the Builder Refused
Brian Strause's Maybe A Miracle starts out somewhere not far from J.D. Salinger's rye field, but it ends up in a new and strange and marvelous place where only this extraordinary first novelist could take it.

Reader Reviews

Caitlin

Maybe A Miracle Review
This book was amazing!!! You always hear about those books that you can "never put it down" but I never thought that to be true, until I read Maybe A Miracle. It's one of the best books I've ever read. I am reading for an independent novel project ...   Read More

Irene Foley

Maybe A Miracle
I found this book enthalling, thought provoking and delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Brian painted a picture of this family with such understanding and realism I felt like I was right there and knew them. Great read for a first novel, ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Brian Strause was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and now lives in Silver Lake, California.  In the interview, which you can read in full at BookBrowse, he answers a number of questions including the inevitable one asked of first time authors - whether Maybe A Miracle is based on his own experiences.  To which he replies: 

"They say to write what you know, but unfortunately the life I've lived isn't exactly chock-full of drama. And indeed, I grew up in Columbus on an idyllic street in a storybook neighborhood. But it's not like Blue Velvet, where it was sordid once you start peeling back the layers. It was all quite painfully normal. Which is all to say, my own family – while incredibly ...

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