The setting of Brian Strause's emotionally charged debut novel is Columbus, Ohio, where 18-year-old Monroe Anderson lives with his family. Monroe's life is irrevocably altered when he discovers his 11-year-old sister, Annika, unconscious in the family pool. Though he saves his sister's life by administering CPR, she remains comatose. His father, a high-powered defense attorney, copes with the tragedy by becoming even more obsessed with his work. Monroe's older brother Ben, a talented golfer, drowns himself in alcohol and suffers disastrous consequences. But it is Monroe's grief-stricken, lonely mother who changes the most and becomes totally absorbed in her Catholic faith, engaging the prayerful assistance of the local parish priest and multiple members of the community. As Annika displays signs of stigmata, Monroe is concerned that her frequent visitors see her not as a person, but as a mere means to healing their various ailments.
As the events of the story unfold, readers are treated to Monroe's first-person narrative, revealing his family's darkest moments. From the second Monroe saves his sister's life, he remains conflicted, feeling the contrast between the media hailing him as a hero and his parents viewing him as a failure for not coming more quickly to his sister's aid. Unable to rationalize the local priest's encouragement of the public to treat his sister as an idol, Monroe clashes with his mother and her boundless faith. Heartwarming and deeply moving, Maybe a Miracle sparkles as it highlights the cavernous depths of one family's trauma. The devastating power of this tragedy is brilliantly portrayed with both the gritty realism and sarcasm that only an 18-year-old boy can convey. But this novel truly stands out because of its singular premise: can one family ever completely recover from a brush with tragedy? As Strause juxtaposes the Andersons' crisis with those of other families, he reveals answers to this question. Readers will quickly warm to this charismatic writer's deft exploration of human emotion. Sheri Melnick writes from Enola, Pennsylvania.