Summary: Ani and her sister Colette live in Ste-Anne-Beaupré, Quebec, a religious town named after one of Quebec’s patron saints. People come from far and wide to petition Saint Anne for miracles, and Ani’s family runs a store that sells religious souvenirs to those who are on pilgrimages. When an accident happens at the store leaving Ani and Colette’s mother paralyzed from the waist down, Ani reconsiders her views on God, miracles, and the church all while dealing with the complicated feelings of being a sixteen year-old.
Number of Pages: 246
Age Range: 14-16
Review: Miracleville by Monique Polak explores the challenging nature of being comfortable in your own skin, no matter what your circumstances.
Polak creates characters who each have something they need to learn to live with. In Marco’s case, it’s about embracing the fact that he is gay in spite of the Catholic church’s stance on the matter, and learning to live as a paraplegic after one drunken night in the train yard. For Colette, ADHD constantly affects her decisions and behaviours, sometimes in a negative way, but also makes her energetic and hopeful. Ani herself has to become comfortable with her introspective nature and a secret truth that is revealed to her when a new priest comes to town. These are just a few examples, but the book itself is carefully orchestrated to provide multiple examples of living with challenging situations.
I have two favourite parts in Miracleville. The first is the relationship between Ani and Colette. They drive each other crazy and tease each other as sisters do, but they are also kind of like each other’s missing halves. They complete each other, and they know it.
My second favourite part is at the end of the novel when everything Ani has been pondering comes together and she makes a powerful statement about the role of miracles. It touched me, and of course I have included it in my Memorable Quotes section.
Dealing with themes of religion, faith, miracles, and family, Miracleville is a thoughtful book for mid teen readers who are looking for a deeper read.
“Each of those poor souls has come to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré to pray for a miracle. Sometimes, when I’m walking on Avenue Royale, I feel hope hanging in the air like a living thing.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 3
“We’ve come to a stop sign and now Father Francoeur is looking at his hands. ‘Faith,’ he said slowly, ‘is believing God knows best. Even if we don’t always understand His ways.’
Father Francoeur must know that’s not the answer I wanted. ‘I want a guarantee…,’ I say, hesitating a little before I go on, ‘that everything’s going to be all right.’
‘That’s just it,’ Father Francoeur says, smiling. ‘Everything is going to be all right. No matter what happens.'” – conversation between Father Francoeur and Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 79
“When I slap Colette, it feels like my hand is moving without me. As if it slipped out from under my sleeve to smack her cheek. As if the red mark on her cheek appeared out of nowhere and had nothing to do with me.
It’s not fair that I’m the one who ends up crying. Colette’s been irresponsible, not me. I’m just trying to protect her. Only I can’t protect her anymore. That’s the problem.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 137
“‘I don’t even like to think about sex. I mean… I do think about it, quite a lot sometimes, but I try not to.’ The words have slipped out of me, and immediately I’m sorry I said them . . .
But Tante Hélène only pats my hair and sighs. ‘One day, when you care from somebody, and when your body’s ready, you won’t mind thinking about it,” she says. ‘You probably won’t be able to stop thinking about it! And one day, when you’re an old woman like me, you’ll be able to explain things to a young woman like you. And that way, we make things a little better. For all of us.'” – conversation between Ani and Tante Hélène from Miracleville by Monique Polak, pages 142-143
“‘I was running away from me.’ Marco pauses I know he’s remembering again. ‘From knowing I was gay. From thinking it was a sin. But you can’t run away from who you are. Even if your legs work right.'” – Marco from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 161
“I guess I always thought that as I got older, I’d understand things better. That I’d be able to describe about miracles and religion and the kind of person I want to be – a believer like Mom, a skeptic like Dad or something in between. But the older I get, the more confused I feel.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 181
“When our eyes meet, she nods. There’s nothing disgusting about her. Nothing at all. I’m the monster, not her. All along, I’ve had it wrong. The really monstrous don’t show on our outsides.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 191
“And that, I decided, is because somewhere in all of us, there is faith. Faith that life makes sense. Faith that even though terrible things happen, there is still goodness and hope.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 222
“Hope’s a funny thing. A little hope can go a long way, and yet, there’s something painful about hope too. If what we’re hoping for doesn’t happen, we might end up feeling even worse than we already did when the accident first happened. And yet the hope that Mom might regain some movement in her lower body had lightened the atmosphere in our house, just like Marco said. Hope is making us kinder with each other and more patient.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 244
“And that’s when I realize that maybe it’s true that the real miracle isn’t when someone throws away their crutches or stops being paralyzed. Maybe the real miracle is way simpler than that. Maybe the miracle is not giving up. Maybe it’s staying hopeful even when you’re not sure how things will turn out.” – Ani from Miracleville by Monique Polak, page 244