A paraplegic vet suddenly rises to his feet, catching the attention of religious leaders, reality TV producers, and skeptics.
Miles’ third novel (Want Not, 2013; Dear American Airlines, 2008) is framed as a poker-faced feat of reportage about the case of Cameron Harris, a former U.S. soldier who lost the use of his legs when a Soviet mine exploded near him while on duty in Afghanistan. Four years later, back home in Biloxi, Mississippi, he’s sitting outside a convenience store waiting for his sister when he discovers he can stand and walk. Cue a cultural scrum over America’s sacred and secular divides. Cameron is deemed a vessel of God by the locals, and a Vatican investigator arrives to determine if a legitimate miracle has occurred; the store becomes a shrine of sorts (“It was more like ‘somone…opened a Cracker Barrel at Lourdes’") and, soon, a moneymaker for its bemused Vietnamese immigrant owners; Cameron’s VA doctor puzzles over the illogic of his healing; and a reality TV producer locks down Cameron (and his charismatic, down-home sister, Tanya) for an investigative show, though the network execs press a more Honey Boo Boo–ish angle. Lost in the financial and theological squabbling, naturally, is Cameron himself, who’s bearing a secret that complicates (though doesn’t quite resolve) his “miracle.” Miles possesses a rare and admirable command of structure and style, shifting smoothly from Afghan patrol tactics to Catholic doctrine to neurological science; his sentences are thick with data, wittily delivered. (The store-cum-shrine is populated with "drunks, solicitors, teenagers in groups of more than three, coupon users, check writers, shirtless men, hundred-dollar-bill breakers, fake-ID presenters....") Sometimes that’s a disadvantage, as the novel’s info-soaked prose threatens to overwhelm the story’s psychological tensions. But the closing pages reveal an emotional vulnerability as potent as its research.
An expertly shaped tale about faith in collision with contemporary American culture.