The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Ugh. This book. All the feelings.
Usually I don't really care for 'feelings' books. Unless it's "I feel really happy that Harry got his letter from Hogwarts" or "I feel like page 4 of 50 Shades of Grey is an excellent spot to stop reading, gently set the book down, light it on fire, and back away slowly." (not that I advocate book burning as a form of censorship, just as a catharsis and a means to take a small pleasure in having just wasted 15 minutes of ones life) or "I feel very uncomfortable that (team) Jacob ends up with his crush's DAUGHTER." (Actually, I feel confused. Is that, like, the grossest form of sloppy seconds, or what?). I like to escape into sci-fi/fantasy, laugh my ass off, creep myself the hell out, or even solve regionally specific mysteries instead of feel feelings.
Yet every time I end up reading an emotion-inspiring book- it sticks with me. Often much longer that one from my genre-of-choice. Speaking of, have you read Elegance of the Hedgehog? Ugh. That'll linger like a lost love. Oh, or Every Last Word, that book makes me teardrop emoticon, now, just thinking about it!
Anyway, this book came to me at a pretty perfect time in my life. I started reading it on a plane to Dallas to visit my dad who had just begun treatment for Leukemia. Understandably, I was kind of all over the place. This book gave me a wonderful conduit for all my crazy emotions.
The story centers around two sisters, Rose and Lilly, who have been estranged for roughly half a decade. Basically, Lilly has crazy OC issues and has a hard time dealing with how she's always felt like a lonely weirdo. These feelings are exacerbated by the presence of Rose's affectionate, yet autistic, daughter, Antoinette. Antoinette's quirks bring all of Lilly's issues to the foreground and she pretty much can't even. Thus, the estrangement. Oh, and they live in Kentucky. And Rose is terminally ill, so Lilly kind of has to come back home and prepare to become Antoinette's guardian. Because you basically can't say "no thanks" when you're dying sister asks you to get your shit together.
And, of course, there's a love triangle that fans of Team Peta will approve of. But there's also a beautiful element of the miraculous. I mean, Stephanie Knipper didn't call her book The Totally Normal Goings On of Antoinette Martin or Nothin to See Here Folks, Just a Mute Kid, Her Dying Mother, and an Aunt Who Has to Count Things. I'm not going to give away the miracle, but I will say that fans of realistic fiction will not find themselves rolling their eyes. It is elegantly tied in with the storyline without sending the book into the orbit of Planet Unbelievable.
One of my favorite things about the book is how Knipper writes from Antoinette's POV. I haven't read Wonder or Out of My Mind, but I gather that part of the appeal is that they are written from the perspective of the disabled. My kids seem to enjoy those books and I've seen them develop a little more compassion for having read them. Knipper writes for Antoinette in a heartbreakingly sweet way that gives voice to her vocally mute character. The love that Antoinette internalizes is inspiring, pure, and achingly selfless. Her struggles in dealing with the impending loss of her mother will make you feel all the feelings.
So, I don't know if I've convinced you to read the book or put as much distance between you and it that you can. But, I'm glad I read it. It's sweet, sad, and satisfying- just maybe not read it on a plane surrounded by strangers unless you are packing tissues and want to pretend you have serious allergies.
Knipper, S. 2016. The peculiar miracles of Antoinette Martin. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC.