THE MIRACLE
by John L'Heureux

Publisher:  Grove Atlantic

Pub Date:  Fall 2002

Format:   Hardcover

Brief Description
A tortured, rebellious priest witnesses an actual miracle, and has his faltering faith shaken to the core.  The new novel by the legendary professor at Stanford University, the man the San Francisco Chronicle says "should be a household name."
(see below for Full Description)

Accolades
* 2003 California Book Awards Gold Medal

* 2002 New York Times Notable Book of the Year

* Publishers Weekly 2002 Best Book of the Year

* New York Times "And Bear in Mind"

 


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Endorsements
"John L'Heureux is one of the truly valuable writers of his generation."
--O. Henry Awards

"John L'Heureux is a magnificent hold-out.  In an age of tour-de-force technique, three-ring-circus virtuosity, L'Heureux builds stories the way the Shakers built chairs; in an age which has cut the imagination free, an age of hippogriffs and seven-legged maidens, L'Heureux sits, stodgy as old Chekhov, observing real human beings and putting them on paper, pore by pore...  A wise writer, with a wisdom as old as the hills."
--John Gardner

"A moving book about the strange zones of intersection between love and cruelty--from one of our finest writers."
--Scott Turow (on Shrine)

"A writer who picks up his readers by the scruff of the neck and won't let them go."
--Chicago Tribune

"A Master storyteller...elegant, cunning, and wickedly funny."
--The Washington Post


Reviews

[for THE MIRACLE]
"A wry but revelatory look at the connection between faith and love . . .L'Heureux's strength is his ability to expose the all-too-human foibles and flaws of his outstanding ensemble cast, as he connects the dots with short, punchy scenes that instantly get to the heart of the matter. As usual, L'Heureux also looks unflinchingly at a variety of tough moral issues, balancing the serious stuff with humor in a deceptively light style that makes this book entertaining as well as challenging. . . . A balanced, wise book built around the life of a priest in a time when the clerical profession is under attack from a wide array of critics."
--Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

"A finely crafted story of a young priest's crisis of faith (and love) is the latest success from . . . L'Heureux. Anybody who was ordained in the 1960s faced pretty stiff casualty rates from the start, and Father LeBlanc-idealistic, intellectual, liberal, and more than a tad na´ve-is the sort who is bound to find Church life hard going at the best of times. . . . . [He] has to decide whether he should remain a priest-and what he wants to do if he leaves-and, more importantly, whether he still believes in God.  Deeply moving and personal, told with great restraint and skill."
--Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

"He writes quietly, almost tenderly, like Charles Baxter, about faith and about regular people. L'Heureux also has a gift for making highly accessible characters, characters. When they make mistakes, no matter how grave, it is easy to understand. . . . L'Heureux brings the priest through his crisis of faith with the same tenderness that makes all his books such a pleasure to read."
--Los Angeles Times

 

"It would be reductive to label the Jesuit-educated writer John L'Heureux a Catholic novelist, as his previous 16 books have tackled a range of characters from all walks of life: Latino immigrants, smarmy academics, half-mad socialites and a whole host of slightly confused, hardworking folks struggling to make their way in a world where God may or may not be watching.
         But it is when L'Heureux writes about the existential conundrum and applies it to Catholic priests that the author seems to be standing on the shoulders of giants. Titled simply "The Miracle," L'Heureux's 17th book gives a rare human depth to a young priest who wants to become a saint. Father Paul LeBlanc is a Catholic radical but a lovable one. Born in a working-class neighborhood in Boston, "Father LeBlanc is just like anybody from the parish, except he is smarter and teaches Latin and is a priest." Paul is beloved by his students, and one has to remind himself of the fact the young father is a priest because he is so handsome and funny. When he plays basketball with the kids, "he can be a mean son of a bitch under the net when he goes up for a hook shot." Paul sings show tunes in the halls of the church, and there is a line to visit his confessional because, above all, Father Paul LeBlanc understands people.
         In fact, his sympathy is a problem for the church. In the tumultuous aftermath of the post-Vietnam '70s, Paul is ordered to visit Monsignor Glynn in hopes that the youthful priest will stop preaching sermons promoting racial equality and inner-city busing. The church elders also want to halt Paul's unorthodox habit of easing the conscience of his flock when they admit to using birth control. "If the Church took charity and justice as seriously as it takes masturbation and birth control, it would be a very different Church," Paul informs the Monsignor. Though Glynn shows outward disapproval of Paul's views, he is secretly moved by Paul's passion and sends the young man to assist a dying priest, Father Tom Moriarty, the Monsignor's oldest friend. Paul perceives his transfer from his home parish in Boston to a resort shore in New Hampshire as a punishment, but he is determined to make the best of it. Still, Paul finds he is vexed by the sarcastic Father Moriarty, who suffers from the degenerative muscular disease ALS, and fears the old priest's rotting faith will contaminate him. Paul is even more vexed when the housekeeper, Rose, a lonely single mother, develops a crush on him.
         Though outwardly Paul is the same happy-go-lucky priest, in his private chambers he weeps and prays without ceasing and even sometimes practices self- flagellation. Like the young priest in L'Heureux's much anthologized story "Departures," Paul loves God but can't seem to manage to love himself, maybe because he doubts God loves him back. One day, during his prayers at Mass, Paul strikes a deal with the Almighty. "Whatever you want, I'll give it. But love me," Paul silently prays as he prepares Communion.
         At the very moment Paul strikes his bargain, Rose's teenage daughter, Mandy, is dying of a drug overdose across town. When Paul is alerted that the girl is ill, he stops services and runs over to Rose's apartment only to find Mandy cold and blue. Around her corpse stands her weeping mother, a doctor and Rose's landlord. Together these four witness a miracle. Just in time to confound the newly arrived paramedics, Mandy rises to her feet, a shaky and disoriented lady Lazarus, and declares, "I need some aspirin." Paul knows in his heart that God has kept his end of the bargain by allowing him to experience the miracle, and he vacillates between elation and fear, knowing that he is now someone God deals with personally. Until this point, L'Heureux writes with great purposefulness and masterful control of the plot. The sentences are tight, clear and declarative; the tone is both serious and comic. The writing feels essential, as if the author is capable of leading his audience to the divine revelation that Paul himself yearns for. But when Mandy dies a month later in a senseless motorcycle accident, Paul's whole spiritual foundation crumbles, and both Paul and the reader are left to wonder: "What is the point in a miracle revoked?" After Mandy's death, Paul has to go back to being an ordinary priest, a station that drives him to thoughts of suicide. And yet even in the absence of a bona fide miracle, the doubting Father Moriarty is able to show Paul how to glean a residue of hope when faith has evaporated. "If in doubt, choose life," advises Father Moriarty, wasting away on his deathbed. "Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.""
--The San Francisco Chronicle


[for AN HONORABLE PROFESSION]
Brilliant and complex...A deeply ambitious novelist...who isn't afraid of dealing with dark themes and what it means to be fully human, especially in the frightening and ecstatic world we create behind the darkened bedroom walls."
--The New York Times Book Review

"An Honorable Profession is a novel about survival both personal and professional, not merely that but survival with dignity and self-respect.  It is itself an honorable novel."
--The Washington Post Book World

[for HAVING EVERYTHING]
"In his fourteenth novel, L'Heureux shines a light on the dark side of a supremely accomplished man's life....L'Heureux is a masterful prose stylist who creates full-bodied, flawed characters enmeshed in life's problems." --Booklist

"Having Everything is a gracefully written, painfully familiar look at adulthood.  The writing is so sharp and clear, in fact, that Having Everything is an Andrew Wyech painting of a novel, in which every gesture, every blade of grass cuts through in some emotion, traveling a distance from skin to heart that could exist only after at least four decades of life..."
--Los Angeles Times

"A master of understated, ominous moments in a marriage in which not asking a question can be more disastrous than asking it. . . . Sharp, moving, poignant."
--Washington Post Book World

"John L'Heureux is perhaps today's most frightening novelist because his characters, for all their strange behavior, are not freaks or misfits. They are the people we see and know. . . . Having Everything is an unforgettable exploration of what it means to become fully human."
--Seattle Times

"A master of spoof and irony . . . As the book moves forward to a conclusion that readers will sense is going to be catastrophic, it is impossible to stop turning its pages."
--Washington Times.

"Witty and interesting"
--Kirkus Reviews

[for A WOMAN RUN MAD]
"Remind[s] one of Iris Murdoch, or Muriel Spark, or E. M. Forster. Yet A Woman Run Mad is unlike any novel I know . . . unusual intelligence and personality are alive throughout the book."
--New York Times Book Review.

"Witty and literate . . . Grand Guignol for grown-ups."
--Newsweek

"Unless you have no interest in passions, the edge of madness, forbidden obsessions, runaway libidos and dangerous desires Woman Run Mad will fascinate you, from its title to its perfect final sentence. . . . A thinking man's Fatal Attraction."
--Chicago Sun-Times

"Normality -- as our time understands the word -- and monstrosity are L'Heureux's poles, and he joins them with extraordinary dexterity. . . . The ending is not to be revealed."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"A superior suspense story . . . It is the kind of story that might well have appealed to a writer like Patricia Highsmith, a drama of interlocking obsessions."
--The New York Times


[for THE SHRINE AT ALTA MIRA]
"A powerfully effective piece of drama."
--The New York Times Book Review


Full Description:
        The Miracle centers around Fr. LeBlanc, a young, devout priest who is transferred out of Boston because of his radical ideas about sex, marriage and birth control. His liberal ideas are deemed dangerous to the church, and he is exiled to a beach community. Having doubts about his faith, Fr. LeBlanc finds himself falling in love with a woman, and then, suddenly, is witness to a miracle: in front of his eyes, a dead girl comes back to life. This leads him to further question his faith, vows and life itself.
       
The Miracle is the first novel to accurately capture the relationship of a man truly tortured by his relationship to God. Profound, thought-provoking and deeply moving, The Miracle is John L'Heureux's best, most ambitious novel.


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