When you get a book to review there is always a bit of a hesitancy. What goes through your mind is “What if it is really bad.” A new book An Imperfect Miracle and found it quite enjoyable.
The story takes on the subject of all those sightings of images of the Virgin Mary. There have certainly been a rash of them that apparently are quite ridiculous and so the media has paid them some attention mostly as a subject of ridicule. Miraculous images are nothing new in the Church and of course there are some very good examples of very plausible ones such as Our Lady of Guadalupe. This interest provides the subtext of the plot.
The story centers around a young boy Nathan Gray from a broken family who lives with his mother. A rather intelligent child with a large imagination that on the surface seems to be an escape from the past of an abusive father. His dog Chewy might be man’s best friend, but he is an imaginative man’s best friend on the order of Harvey. One day this young man sees something that defies explanation and is on the order of the miraculous and then he soon discovers an image of Mary on a cement wall that seems more than just a random water stain.
The story is told through his eyes as he discovers more about Mary and the people involved in promoting what was becoming a new shrine. He has intellectual curiosity and even though he and his mother belong to a local Protestant Church he does not see anything incongruent with what he is learning. He also develops a friendship with one of the people in the local Catholic church in his small town along with the Catholic priest and also one of the pastors of the church he attends.
The novel involves the tensions of this boy with an active imagination reporting this miraculous image and then the coming crowds to see this image and the towns involvement in seeing this as an opportunity to bring more money into the coffers as the image is on public land. Further plot elements introduce some danger and further mysteries on a more material level.
I really enjoyed the telling of the story and the boy’s reactions to the multiple events that developed. There were a couple of plot points that seemed to be of a more implausible nature, but they didn’t ruin the story for me. This book is also not written as Catholic apologetics disguised as novel and can easily be recommended to a wide audience as a good novel that takes faith seriously on both the Catholic and Protestant divides.