Wunder Ellis is a miracologist, dutifully cataloging stories of the miraculous in a journal. However, after his newborn sister dies, Wunder stops the stories— miracles don’t exist. But then he meets Faye and, in turn, the woman who lives in the crumbling house near the cemetery. Though Wunder can’t say for sure if she’s a witch, he follows her instructions for a journey that makes him reconsider friendship, grief, and even miracles.
There are few books that, within the first sentences, feel special. They’re different in an almost intangible way. And yet, there’s an energy that radiates through their prose — effortless and compelling — that suggests something wondrous is to come.
That’s what author Jess Redman has managed to accomplish in her debut novel. To be fair, with a main character named Wunder, that’s sort of implied. Yet, this complicated and driven kid just trying to find his way after the death of his infant sister is the glue that binds this work together. Disconnected from his friends and navigating a home life with parents who are also struggling, he pushes aside the miracles that have defined the first part of his life. Yet underneath is his optimistic, curious side that drives him into an adventure full of potential magic.
Perhaps that’s what Redman has done best of all: she’s crafted an expression of the healing process as it relates to grief. Wunder’s moods buck and weave, grappling to find peaceful equilibrium in his sorrow. And through it all he seeks answers, about miracles and about himself. It’s all part of the healing process.
While this might sound heavy — and it certainly is — that’s not to suggest there’s no fun. Faye is the perfect partner, unapologetically boisterous and ready to tackle the world. She sneaks into Wunder’s protective shell and propels him into taking risks. After all, there’s a potentially witch out there who has a quest, and that needs investigating. Just like in life, there’s plenty of joy in sorrow.
Redman has written a story that thrusts the darkness of death into the light while punctuating with a hug. As a result, The Miraculous is a breathtaking debut.
Title: The Miraculous
Author: Jess Redman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Classification: Middle Grade
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.