Here Comes The Miracle by Anna Beecher
Published by W & N
Available from all Good Bookshops and Online from 18th February
What They Say
It begins with a miracle: a baby born too small and too early, but defiantly alive. This is Joe.
Decades before, another miracle. In a patch of nettle-infested wilderness, a seventeen year old boy falls in love with his best friend, Jack. This is Edward.
Joe gains a sister, Emily. From the outset, her life is framed by his. She watches him grow into a young man who plays the violin magnificently and longs for a boyfriend. A young man who is ready to begin.
Edward, after being separated from Jack, builds a life with Eleanor. They start a family and he finds himself a grandfather to Joe and Emily.
When Joe is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Emily and the rest of the family are left waiting for a miracle. A miracle that won’t come.
Here Comes the Miracle is a profoundly beautiful story about love and loss; and about the beautiful and violent randomness of life.
What I Say
In 2017, my Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer and started her chemotherapy treatment, and she passed away in March 2019. Just less than two years from diagnosis, and she was gone. A fiercely determined and private woman, she didn’t want to tell my sister and I exactly what she was going through – possibly she wanted to shield us, more likely she didn’t want to worry us, and as we both live far from our childhood home, we relied on my Dad to keep us posted on what was happening.
Since she passed away, I have not been able to read a single book where the characters have cancer. I just can’t deal with the fact that they are still existing in their story and my Mum isn’t here to tell me not to be so bloody daft and get on with it.
When Lettice from W & N approached me to ask if I would like a copy of Here Comes The Miracle, I said yes and then put it on a shelf because I realised what it was about and quite frankly didn’t want to read it. A few weeks ago, I was having a real problem choosing a book to read. Every book I picked up just irritated me (my problem not theirs!) and then I saw Here Comes The Miracle. I reckoned that if I started it and couldn’t handle it that I could put it back and no one would ever know.
The thing is, it is absolutely absorbed me, and in fact I messaged Lettice as soon as I started reading it, because it is everything I needed to read at that moment to help me understand my grief and move on. It is so beautifully written, and deals with the subjects of living and dying, and most importantly the unspoken connections you have to your family in times of grief. How you have to carry on with your life existing with the knowledge that the person you love so much cannot be helped, and all that you can do is to be there for them, to reassure and comfort them as you see them slip away before your eyes.
From the moment he was born, Joe was the miracle baby. Premature and in an incubator, it was touch and go whether he would survive. He did, and then Emily came along and the family was complete. It is obvious throughout the book how close that Joe and Emily are, and that they are just like so many brothers and sisters in so many ways – loving each other one minute and then irritated completely by each other the next. Emily has moved out and is living with her boyfriend Solomon, studying at University and trying to make a go of her life. Joe is a quiet and sensitive soul who finds joy in his music and has feelings for a man who has returned to Boston, and is now finding his way in the world.
The narrative moves between Joe and Emily’s story, and also of their Grandfather Edward, who fell in love with his best friend called Jack, but is forced to leave the home when his mother sees them together in his bedroom. Shunned by his family, Edward finally finds solace with a teacher called Eleanor, who has left behind a violent husband, and they find comfort and stability in each other’s arms and have two children together. Their marriage is safe and solid, and though it might not be passionate, it provides both of them with the respectability society requires.
As the plot moves forward, Emily returns from a trip to Ireland with Solomon to be met at the airport by her parents with the devastating news that Joe has Stage Four cancer. From that moment on, everything Emily and her family have known is turned on its head, whilst Joe sits in the middle of it all, bringing his family even closer, and dealing with the realisation that he is facing death. What I found incredibly real about this novel is how life simply carries on, and that whatever situation you may be dealing with behind closed doors, to the outside world, nothing has changed. What Anna captures so perfectly in this novel is not the grand gestures or huge events, but the mundane and everyday realities that still have to happen however much we are hurting inside.
Emily is completely devastated by Joe’s diagnosis, and like any of us that have been in that situation, she tries to bargain with a higher power to save Joe. All her family are looking desperately for some hope, some sign that they can find the miracle that will save Joe and help their family heal. As Joe’s condition deteriorates, the family pull together to look after him and give him some comfort and release from the pain he is going through.
Anna’s stunning and multi-layered writing just perfectly portrays the stress and disbelief they are going through, the novel is filled with passages that will make you stop and re-read them because she absolutely articulates what it means to feel completely helpless in the face of this disease. Medical terminology becomes your new language, you find strength you can’t comprehend, and you learn that the most important lesson of all is to tell your family that you love them as often as you can.
Here Comes The Miracle completely stopped me in my tracks. When I finished it, I finally felt that someone else understood exactly what it is like to live with the knowledge that something you can’t control is going to take away someone you love – and you are powerless to stop it. It is an incredible novel of love and loss, of family and grief, but most of all, it is a brilliant and visceral story about the realities of living with and loving someone with cancer unequivocally.
I absolutely loved this novel, and it is going to be one of my #MostSelfishReads2021. If this novel is not on your bookish radar, please, put it on there.
Thank you so much to Lettice Franklin at W & N for my gifted copy.
8 thoughts on “Here Comes The Miracle by Anna Beecher”
Wow I’m not sure I could handle this one! Like you, I lost my mum to cancer, (ovarian) and I struggle with reading about that kind of thing too. Although we lost Mum nearly 20 years ago now it’s still something I try not to think about. You’re very brave to read this Clare, and I’m so glad you did, it’s very brave of you. Beautiful review, thank you for sharing 😘
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Honestly Lisa, mum passed away two years ago, and there are so many seemingly inconsequential things that just remind me of her daily. I knew that I wanted to read it, but I wasn’t prepared for what an astounding book it is. Am so sorry about your Mum, and am sending lots of love xxx
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Wow. That sounds amazing and I am impressed at how you dared to start a book that filled you with trepidation, and which was enthralling and a positive experience for you. Thanks for your honesty. I am now intrigued to read this.
I loved this review, Clare, this probably would not be the kind of book I would pick up but you’ve convinced me. So brave of you to read it.
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Thank you Helen – it was a bit of a challenge for me, but am so pleased I did xx
Wow. I am impressed that you were brave enough to start a book which filled you with trepidation, but which ended up being enthralling and a positive experience for you. Thanks for your honesty. I am now intrigued.
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Thank you so much for your kind words. I think I knew that if I couldn’t handle it, then I could always put it back on my shelf and no one would ever know. I hope you read it and love it as much as I do.
Wow, wonderful post. Cancer has devastated my loved ones, my dad from colon cancer when I was only 8, my mom from Ovarian cancer when I was 40 and my husband from pancreatic just four years ago. I have not been able to read about someone with cancer at all. I am glad this was cathartic for you. It would definitely be a great book for someone to read who doesn’t understand how getting that news changes so many lives. Hugs.