Title: The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Author: Stephanie Knipper
No. of Pages: 336
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Origins: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 2 August 2016
“Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when they were kids. As adults, they’ve been estranged for years, until circumstances force them to come together to protect Rose’s daughter. Ten-year-old Antoinette has a severe form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness: she can heal things with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, changes the normal course of nature on the Kentucky flower farm where she and her mother live.
Antoinette’s gift, though, puts her own life in danger, as each healing comes with an increasingly deadly price. As Rose—the center of her daughter’s life—struggles with her own failing health, and Lily confronts her anguished past, they, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.
Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be ‘different,’ The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family, and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.”
My Thoughts: I know. I know. Women’s fiction is not my bag. However, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a perfect example of why I keep reading the genre. For every five women’s fiction novels I read, there is one that makes me glad to be alive and thrilled to be a reader. Stephanie Knipper’s novel is one such novel.
Are there issues with the book? Yes. My biggest issue with genre at large is the lack of in-depth character development. I also struggle with the general speed with which the characters resolve their problems. The same holds true here. One could say that Lily develops the most, as she learns the new ways of the farm and develop a relationship with her niece, however the plot still moves at a fantastic pace that makes the development a bit unbelievable. Simultaneously, all of the characters are lacking in substantial development that would move them beyond two-dimensional fictitious and into the realm of realistic. Combine that with a too-good-to-be-true setting, and there is a major fairy tale vibe happening within the novel.
Yet, and that is such a big yet, the story is just lovely, so much so that all of the things that normally drive me insane about this genre just melt down the drain. Antoinette is truly a special girl. Ms. Knipper does an excellent job of not only detailing the limitations her autism places on her physical presence but also the very beautiful mind hidden underneath her tics. Her gift adds an element of magical realism, further enhancing the fairy tale vibe but in a positive way. The love she has for her mother is heart-aching and yet so real; it is such a fantastic reminder of the uncomplicated love one has for their children.
One of the best things about Antoinette is that she makes you believe that the world is a good place. She provides hope where there might be none. She reminds you of the simple pleasures of life. She is the calm in the storm, the lone flower pushing its way up through cracks in the asphalt, and a balm that eases the ache caused by the nightly news. She says not a word, and yet her thoughts, although simple, are so profound.
It is not like me to gush about any women’s fiction novel, and yet The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin deserves all the gushing and more. As the end of summer approaches, and families everywhere gear up for another school year of busy schedules, fights about homework and morning wake-up times, and everything else that preoccupies our minds when life gets busy, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a gentle reminder to not take for granted the blesses your family brings you. Rose’s profound love for her child, and the unsparing glimpses into her life as the mother of a child with special needs provide a much-needed antidote to pretty much everything. It may be sappy and predictable and everything I detest in the genre, but Antoinette worms her way into your heart and soothes away all of your anger and frustrations – at the book, at the world, at your life.