Now in Paperback: Anatomy of a Miracle
Now in Paperback
The brilliant, life-affirming novel about a paralyzed young veteran’s unexplainable recovery—a stunning exploration of faith, science, mystery, and the meaning of life
The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace
**An American Library Association’s Book Club Central SJP Pick**
“Jonathan Miles is a great American storyteller, a writer to celebrate and hold close. His tender, life-affirming new novel, Anatomy of a Miracle, follows paraplegic veteran Cameron Harris and his sister, Tanya, after Cameron suddenly regains the ability to walk. The story in these pages is astoundingly joyous and deeply humane, and I can’t wait to share it with you all as the new selection for Book Club Central.” —Sarah Jessica Parker, honorary Book Club Central chair
“Brilliant, moving, suspenseful, funny, rich, and humane. By far his best work. It’s a robust and powerful story about humanity, hope, loss, and courage. And LOVE. Cannot recommend it highly enough, truly!” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic, on Instagram
“Funny, bighearted . . . Miles specializes in giving fully rounded humanity to characters who might elsewhere be treated as stock figures . . . pitch-perfect.” —New York Times Book Review
“Jonathan Miles’s masterful new novel Anatomy of a Miracle documents the slo-mo explosion of an attention-grabbing event with trompe l’oeil flourishes. . . . Miles is a writer so virtuosic that readers will feel themselves becoming better, more observant people from reading him. . . . Part of why Anatomy feels so expansive is that Miles takes every opportunity to delve into the characters’ backstories . . . but this keen interest in people is part and parcel of a book in which the author describes humans as ‘extraordinary’ at least three times. In Miles’s world, everyone—not just the people shouting loudest on the internet—is worthy of attention.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
Jonathan Miles’s unforgettable third novel, ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE—beloved and championed by indie booksellers, critics, passionate librarians, and readers alike—is now available in paperback (January 8, 2019; Hogarth). Brilliantly written, funny, heartrending, and powerfully hopeful, ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE grapples with faith, sexuality, the search for truth, and the struggle to find an individual identity up against the stories and expectations thrust upon us. Through the story of Cameron Harris, Miles does nothing less than make the supernatural tangible, as one man struggles with the possibility—and the consequences—of a miracle in his own life.
Rendered paraplegic after a traumatic event in Afghanistan, army veteran Cameron Harris has resigned himself to his new existence living alongside his sister and caretaker, Tanya, in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi, neighborhood, where only half the houses made it through Hurricane Katrina. But one stiflingly hot August afternoon, as Cameron sits waiting for Tanya during their daily run to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, he has a strange feeling—and then he suddenly and inexplicably rises up and out of his wheelchair.
In the aftermath of this “miracle,” Cameron finds himself a celebrity at the center of a contentious debate about what’s taken place. After a Facebook post by Tanya goes viral, local and subsequently national media come calling, and Cameron’s own confusion about what actually happened to him is lost as his story is no longer his own: Christians and truth-seekers claim his healing as a bona fide miracle—proof of God and reason to hope for their own healing; a charming lawyer from the Vatican arrives to investigate the legitimacy of the miracle in service to a well-funded sainthood campaign; the Vietnamese immigrant owners of the Biz-E-Bee convenience store capitalize on the flocks of pilgrims coming to stand where Cameron stood and purchase a souvenir; a reality TV producer swallows his dream of a serious documentary about Cameron, as Lifetime network executives scrub their protagonist into a squeaky-clean American hero; and Cameron’s VA doctor becomes obsessed with finding a scientific explanation for his unprecedented recovery, grappling with the politics of medicine and her own family history in the process.
Amid all of this is Cameron—a lost young man struggling to come to terms with his unexplained healing and what it means for his agnostic faith, struggling to keep up with the demands of his new public identity, and desperately struggling to keep a secret: the true story of how he happened to be in the path of a leftover Soviet landmine while on patrol in Afghanistan.
The Vatican investigator tracks down Cameron’s commanding officer, Staff Sergeant Damarkus Lockwood, who was also injured in the blast. In a departure from the present-day tensions of Cameron’s Biloxi world, Miles renders strikingly vivid the story-within-a-story of Cameron’s and Damarkus’s deployment: adrenaline-fueled battles, cabin-fever antics and jokey comradery, and the relationships that develop during an anxiously uneventful winter spent patrolling villages in remote Afghanistan. In one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching passages of the book, Miles describes the blast that injured Cameron and Damarkus: “Only his eyes had time to move once he registered the click beneath his heel. Cameron was turning back toward him. That’s all he saw, in that final green landscape: a turn that could’ve meant nothing and could’ve meant everything. His lips cracked apart. Boom.”
The truth threatens to upend Cameron’s carefully maintained apathy, as well as the self-absorbed expectations of those around him. Was Cameron’s recovery a genuine divine miracle, a medical breakthrough, or something else entirely? And, finding himself transformed overnight into a symbol onto whom strangers project their hopes and fears, how can he hope to retain his personal agency—and even his own humanity?
Masterfully written as closely observed journalistic reportage and filtered through the perspectives of the vibrant characters affected by Cameron’s story, Miles’s novel brilliantly upends our expectations. Miles walks the line between fiction and nonfiction by crafting a story that masquerades as journalism, playfully—yet seriously—challenging us to consider truth. How do we define this murky, lofty ideal? What about Cameron’s story is “true”? In its philosophy and so much more, ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE is a crucible of current cultural debates: religion and science, identity and social media, the celebrity of reality television, and the search for objectivity in a sea of competing agendas. Deeply grounded in time and place, Miles’s finely wrought observations and expansive, generous vision nonetheless engage with questions of fate, fortune, and whether there’s a higher purpose for all—or any—of us. ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE is a radiant novel and a powerful story of our time.
About the author: Jonathan Miles is the author of the novels Dear American Airlines and Want Not, both New York Times Notable Books. He is a former columnist for the New York Times and has served as a contributing editor to magazines ranging from Details to Field & Stream, and his journalism has been frequently anthologized in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Crime Writing. He is also the author of The Wild Chef, a book on fish and game cookery, and competed in the Dakar Rally, an off-road race through Africa.
ADDITIONAL PRAISE FOR ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE
“[Anatomy of a Miracle] is a remarkable combination of medical mystery, satire and war story. Like Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, it captures the long-lasting effects of war by focusing on those for whom war is only a tangential thing somewhere far away.” —Shelf Awareness
“Jonathan Miles’ smart exploration of everything from the excesses of American popular culture to the deepest aspects of religious belief roars to life. . . . A vivid portrait of our need to believe and its unintended consequences . . . Anatomy of a Miracle is a thoughtful modern morality play that’s as current as the latest internet meme and as timeless as the foundations of faith” —BookPage
“Miles possesses a rare and admirable command of structure and style, shifting smoothly from Afghan patrol tactics to Catholic doctrine to neurological science; his sentences are thick with data, wittily delivered. . . . An expertly shaped tale about faith in collision with contemporary American culture.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles is a novel that reads like a true story. It’s about a US veteran whose paralysis from the War in Afghanistan is miraculously cured. Cue a media frenzy and you finishing this story in days.” —The Skimm
“Heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny.” —Books Inc., in the San Francisco Chronicle
“In this vibrant, bustling, and humorous Southern novel, Miles (Want Not, 2013) focuses on the life of a Biloxi, Mississippi, native, Cameron Harris. . . . Cleverly shaped as a journalistic report, and told in a style similar to that of John Jeremiah Sullivan and Ron Currie, Miles’s tale offers a nuanced and endlessly entertaining exploration of the age-old debate between faith and reason.” —Booklist
“Through Miles’s powerful prose, [Anatomy of a Miracle] nudges readers to seek the soft spots between faith and judgment, story and science, and fact and fiction.” —Garden & Gun
“With sincerity and wit, Miles pens a strong, sardonic rumination on the religious boundaries of the miraculous.” —Library Journal
“Jonathan Miles has written a novel whose comic moments alone make it a wonderful read, but Anatomy of a Miracle quickly becomes so much more: an intense, and intensely profound, meditation on how an extraordinary event might test the limits of both scientific and religious belief. What a superb writer; what a superb book.” —Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and Above the Waterfall
ACCLAIM FOR JONATHAN MILES
PRAISE FOR WANT NOT
*A New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune Notable Book*
**A Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2013 Selection**
***A Wall Street Journal Favorite Books of 2013***
“Well, I loved this book. I don’t know if it helps you or anyone to delay that assessment, so I won’t. Jonathan Miles can write, and here he’s written a wonderful book, and there’s no one I would not urge to read it. . . . This is the work of a fluid, confident, and profoundly talented writer who gets more fluid, more confident, and seemingly more talented even within the book itself. As it progresses, Want Not so assuredly accumulates power and profundity and momentum that I read the last 200 pages without pause.” —Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] shrewd, funny, and sometimes devastating new novel . . . What Want Not does best, though, isn’t plotting but portraits of humanity: the small epiphanies and private hurts of every person whose life, like the detritus they produce, is as beautifully mundane and unique as a fingerprint.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Terrific . . . complex, often hilarious, ultimately moving.” —Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Immensely satisfying . . . while [Mr. Miles] is presumably capable of writing a bad sentence, he doesn’t do so here, despite the big swings he often takes with his prose . . . gripping and memorable.” —New York Times
“Miles [proves] he can deal with tragedy, big ideas, and even horror just as skillfully as comedy. . . . Augurs a brilliant literary career.” —The Rumpus.net
“So luminous and so resonant . . . packed to the gills with heady themes and fierce writing.” —The Oregonian (Portland)
“Ideas swirl about on every page . . . Want Not does all this in gorgeous passages that occasionally border on genius. . . . If there is a modern book that more artfully allegorizes the desperation and anxieties of the human condition through the lives of normal people, this reviewer hasn’t come across it.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books
“With a light Midas touch, Miles turns all the glut and ache of late America into pure gold. Read this book. It is warm, complex, comic, honest, and never flinching. Want Not wastes not a word, while its pleasures are endless.” —Joshua Ferris, author of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
“A powerful, blisteringly funny novel . . . Miles mines the depths of waste so artfully that by the end of this extraordinary novel, we’re left with the suspicion that redemption may well be no more, and no less, than an existential salvage operation.” —Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“For readers who relish extravagant language, scathing wit, and philosophical heft, Want Not wastes nothing.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With forthright wit and stunning intimacy, Miles doesn’t hesitate to broach the uncomfortable consequences of unchecked abundance and desire. The result is a wild tangle of high-octane, entertaining prose, an astonishing leap for this accomplished novelist.” —Booklist
PRAISE FOR DEAR AMERICAN AIRLINES
*A New York Times Notable Book*
**A Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year**
***Finalist for the QPB New Voices Award and the Great Lakes Book Award***
“Wildly entertaining . . . not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding.” —Richard Russo, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“This is writing that pulls no punches. . . . There’s a satirist’s edge to [it], an over-the-top sensibility reminiscent of Tibor Fischer and John Kennedy Toole. Satire, to be sure, is part of the point, but Miles is after something bigger—a story of reconciliation, of redemption, of a character trying to become unstuck.” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“Hilariously vitriolic.” —Harper’s Bazaar
“Tender and corrosively funny.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A raucously ambitious novel . . . [It] sounds insane. It is insane. It’s also terrific, a wild ride anchored by Bennie’s hilarious updates on how things are going at O’Hare. This is Miles’s first novel. I don’t know what he’ll do next, but I’ll be there.” —Arizona Republic
“A brilliant conception . . . Mr. Miles is a superb writer.” —Steve Weinberg, Dallas Morning News
“Dear American Airlines is rich and wild and dazzling and insightful and fall-on-the-floor funny and sad and tender, a first-person confession, erstwhile suicide note and epic letter of complaint.” —Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
“A flinty, funny, irreverent, and heartbreaking first novel. The writing reminded me of brilliant, early-days Martin Amis—except with redemption and hope. It’s not easy to write a book this good, but Jonathan Miles makes it seem effortless.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
“Miles is a rare original who has pity and sympathy for almost everybody. Bravo.” —Barry Hannah, author of Airships
“I loved this novel, which is strong medicine indeed.” —Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall