THE MIRACLE by Irving Wallace
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Returning to the Grand Hotel style of his early bestsellers (The Prize, etc.) and the chatty theological drift of The Word, Wallace now takes on the subject of miracle-cures at Lourdes--with a modern-day plot that manages to recycle just about everything written (or debated) about Bernadette's vision and the shrine's healing powers. The not-very-plausible premise? Pope John Paul III, having read some just-discovered secret journals by 19th-century Saint Bernadette, announces to the world that Bernadette foresaw a second appearance by the Virgin Mary at Lourdes--a manifestation that's fated to occur between August 14 and 22 of this very year! Unsurprisingly, then, all sorts of people start descending on Lourdes, most of them in pursuit of miracle-healing. Young US lawyer Peter Clayton, about to undergo surgery for a deadly sarcoma, cancels the operation and journeys to France for a miracle--accompanied by his dismayed, frantic fiancÉe Amanda, a psychologist who is entirely skeptical about Lourdes. Sergei Tikhanov, Foreign Minister of the USSR (and chosen successor to the ailing USSR kingpin), is secretly suffering from muscular dystrophy--which would mean instant retirement; so, in disguise as an American named Sam Talley, he's Lourdes-bound too. (""It was a dangerous enterprise, a key Soviet official going to a Catholic shrine to abandon momentarily Marx for Mary."") Gorgeous young Italian ex-actress Natale Rinaldi wants a cure for her recent onset of blindness. Sweet, innocent Englishwoman Edith Moore, who has already had a miraculous cancer-cure via Lourdes, is on her way (with huckster-hubby Reggie) to Lourdes to be officially designated a miracle--something Reggie is planning to exploit financially. Homely US newswoman Liz Finch arrives, desperate for a scoop. And, in the most strained mini-plot, Basque quasi-terrorist Mikel Hurtado is planning to blow up the shrine--for very contrived, indirect political reasons. All these people criss-cross once they're in Lourdes, of course. Liz and Amanda team up in research to debunk the Lourdes legend (with chunk upon chunk of ill-digested Lourdes lore); Mikel saves Natale from rape, then falls in love with her and starts doubting his terrorist plans; Tikhanov is driven to murder--when a young blackmailing Frenchwoman penetrates his disguise; Edith's cancer returns. And though lots of anti-Bernadette material gets dug up, with both Edith and Peter eventually turning toward medical miracles, there is at least one faith-cure, plus a major vision of Mary--with a middle-of-the-road message: ""Science is compatible with faith. . . ."" Despite the dollops of crude Wallace-style sex and the creaky plotting: a generally readable, cheerfully predictable religio-melodrama--bogging down only in those long extracts of Lourdes/Bernadette history.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1984
Publisher: Dutton