Published by Hogarth Press
Publication date: March 13th 2018
Genres: Book Clubs, Contemporary, Fiction, Literary
Cameron Harris is a patriotic young man who goes to Afghanistan and returns home paralyzed from the waist down after stepping on an IED. When Jonathan Miles’s new novel, Anatomy of a Miracle opens he is back in his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi living with his sister Tanya. Days are spent watching TV, smoking, taking the cornucopia of pills he’s been prescribed, and drinking beer. It is on when of their trips to the nearby convenience store, the Biz-E-Bee, as Tanya is inside buying Cap’n Crunch, that Cameron gets an odd feeling in the lower half of his body, and then…stands. And walks. Just a few steps because he’s been paralyzed for four years, but it is enough to turn their quiet town upside down. And much like the landmine that severed his spinal cord, these steps blow Cameron’s life apart.
It doesn’t take long for the ripple effect of Cameron’s recovery to spread. Initially, a local reporter shows up, which spurs a call from Cameron’s VA doctor, Janice Lorimar-Cuevas, and a visit to her office where, as a doctor, she is at a loss to explain how a spinal cord could regenerate itself. There is no answer in Cameron’s MRIs nor any historical precedent, but as a doctor she is unable to use the word ‘miracle’. There must be some explanation and she’s determined to find it.
As Cameron slowly begins to adjust to his new situation the ripples turn into waves. A local priest shows up and subjects Cameron and Tanya to rigorous questioning that is the prelude to a long-dead American priest being nominated for sainthood. The owners of the Biz-E-Bee find their small store besieged with tour buses of the faithful showing up to stand in the spot where Cameron rose and taking photos of everything in the area. In response, they stop stocking supplies the regulars buy and go all-in on religious memorabilia, watching as they go from being near bankruptcy to making money for the first time in their lives.
The waves become a tsunami when Hollywood steps in and a director approaches Cameron to star in a reality show (to be called The Miracle Man) that will document his life going forward as he searches for answers to his healing. It’s no surprise that this goes from possibly being of merit to Cameron getting veneers for his teeth and Tanya becoming the show’s focus because she’s got more personality. Filming takes over their lives, spinning them out of control until reality becomes unreal.
With such an intriguing and controversial subject Miles could lead Anatomy straight over a cliff of the absurd. Instead, he presents an average man who is not religious, but self-aware enough to know that if he’s being held up as a miracle either he ought to have done something to deserve it or he’d better do something bigger with his life now. He chooses the supporting cast just as carefully, with the VA doctor representing the world of facts and science and an Italian investigator from the Vatican representing religion. Miles doesn’t take the easy route of making them caricatures but gives both welcome depth and the same mission—to find the truth, as difficult as it may be.
How Miles draws together such a cast of opposites and varied beliefs is one of the best aspects of Anatomy. You have science, religion, and capitalism all converging on a 26-year-old man with a high school education who freely admits he has no understanding of what’s happened or how it could happen or what it means. Mostly, he wants to know how this could happen. What he is not ready for is people delving into his past and here Miles adds another surprising element to the story. One that doesn’t rely on shock value or taking the easy way out. Instead, it complicates the story and gives the reader even more to contemplate—something I relish in a novel. Which is why, in all its messy, contradictory humanity, Anatomy of a Miracle is an intelligent, humorous, deeply rewarding novel, regardless of your take on miracles.
Glad you liked this one. Sounds sort of like a fun read.
It is. He hits on the highs and lows of a provocative, but not necessarily negative or controversial topic. And he writes so well. I think you’d like it.
Susie | Novel Visits says
I thought you might review Anatomy today and as usual I’m glad I had mine written before reading yours. (Mine will be tomorrow.) You’ve done a fantastic job outlining Cameron’s story and your rating is spot on. I hope between the two of us we can get a few more people to pick up this wonderful book.
I know- I haven’t heard much about it. That’s the case with my top 3 favorites of this year- no buzz. Instead, all the attention is on Girls Burn Brighter, which…no.
Okay, I have to be honest and say that I did not read the *entire* review because I already have a copy of this one and I’ll be starting it soon; however, as soon as I saw the nearly five stars, I was super excited!! I am even more thrilled about this one now; it was completely new to me, but shipped as the March selection in the Parnassus Books Signed First Editions Club and I’m so happy to hear it worked out well for you!
I think you will really love it. I’m still thinking about it days later, which is a very good sign for me. Miles doesn’t take the easy route on any aspect.
This sounds like a fascinating and detailed look into the media whirlwind that surrounds people when something unexpected happens. I can’t even imagine living under scrutiny from the press, religion, and science, all while trying to reconcile an enormous personal change. I would definitely like to pick this one up!
That’s exactly it! Miles is so intelligent about it and wonderfully portrays how this poor guy is stuck in the midst of a storm and a lot of attention he doesn’t want.
I read Jonathan Miles’ last book “Want Not” and loved it, so have been waiting to see some reviews of this one. I’m glad to see you liked it! I would recommend Want Not, if you haven’t already read it.
Like you, I really enjoyed Want Not which is why I got this one. You won’t be disappointed. He is such an intelligent storyteller.
Can’t wait to cram this one into the schedule somewhere. Though I just this morning started a new “pledge” to get rid of (i.e., read or listen to) all of the books on my main TBR shelf by the end of the year. This means That I have to fit them in around assignment books, most likely on kindle or audio. So I spent half the morning putting sticky notes in my books indicating where they can be found in electronic form. This can’t end well.
Oh, Lord, this sounds bad. Don’t you remember that we are perverse enough that we will subconsciously push back against anything we thing we “should” do? It’s sounds like a great idea but as I side-eye my TBR shelf I know the backlist ones aren’t going anywhere. Carry on!
You notice I said “main TBR shelf.” These are really the cream of the crop that have been sitting too long. And it sounds bad, but I also think liberating if I can be successful. We shall see. 🙂
Absolutely liberating! You’re a better book owner than I am. I resort to adding them to my Goodreads TBR list and giving them away- figuring I can get them at the library if I ever want to read them.
That’s an interesting M.O. But what happens if you love something enough to keep on the shelf? I figure I bought these for a reason (not that I’ve never bought a book for a reason other than just liking the cover and needing a fix, mind you), and I keep favorites on the shelf. I SHOULD do some weeding of things I’m not confident in, but if I go that route I’ll never read them at all. I didn’t say I was going to stop requesting other things from the library, did I? 🙂
OK…we may be on the same page after all, because I thought your TBR meant books sent by publishers, not books you bought yourself. Different rules. The ARC TBRs are the ones I ditch . Books I own take a lot more thought and most stick around. I am a librarian at heart so I don’t buy a lot of books- mostly from authors at signing events. Aahhhhhh…books!