Miracle McCloy received her name because, as she's been told many times, she was pulled from the body of her mother shortly after her mother was run over and killed by a bus. Raised largely by her grandmother with her depressed and dysfunctional father nearby, she has learned a great deal about séances, contacting the dead, reading auras, and paying attention to energy fields. But she doesn't know much about how to locate her own confused feelings about her parents, her identity, and her relationships with "normal" kids at school who see her has some kind of freak.

She perpetuates this image by casting "spells" to help fellow students connect with boyfriends. But after her father disappears, and her grandfather's house is destroyed in a tornado, she lapses into mental illness and burns herself badly trying to "melt" as she believes her father did by dancing among flaming candles. She is taken to an institution where an astute therapist and an aunt who realizes how much Miracle needed her combine their efforts to help her recover a sense of who she is--a dancer, a strongly intuitive, intelligent girl with an interesting history and a promising life to live, liberated from the obsessions of a superstitious grandmother and mentally ill father.


Strange as it is, and somewhat disturbing in its portrayal of the isolated world of ardent spiritualism, the novel is a strong chronicle of recovery of self. In order to grow up, Miracle has to challenge and reject very explicit belief systems and practices that have shielded her from knowing her own history and asking her own questions. In her grandfather, who has kept distant and left her to her dysfunctional grandmother and father, she rediscovers a source of health and support.

He allows her to take the dancing lessons that have always been forbidden her--as it turns out, because her mother was a dancer. She learns as well that it is more than likely that her mother's death was a suicide. Once the family secrets are disclosed, she can begin to deal with what she knows and make decisions about how to live her life and what to claim. A daring, challenging, well-written book that raises questions that occur to most adolescents at some point about death, spiritual connection, intuition, and authority.


This novel won the National Book Award and the American Library Association Award.


Harcourt, Brace

Place Published

New York



Page Count