Antoinette Martin is a 10-year-old with autism so severe that a doctor suggests to her single mother, Rose, that she consider institutions.
Knipper’s debut novel would have benefited from more of its namesake’s point of view, even though she can't speak. Instead, the author rotates among the perspectives of Antoinette, Rose, and Rose's estranged sister, Lily, supported by a cast of several additional characters. Rose has congenital heart failure and must reconcile with Lily to assure Antoinette’s future. The plot is complicated by a love triangle—Lily is torn between her childhood sweetheart and next-door neighbor, Seth, who has become co-owner of her family's flower farm, and Will, her next-door neighbor in adulthood. If it seems strange that Lily only loves men who live next door, it’s even stranger that she seems to be on the autism spectrum herself but no one mentions it, other than to note her quirks. Rose blames herself for Antoinette’s disabilities rather than considering genetics. The miracles of the title refer to the healing effect Antoinette’s touch has on sick people. Will figures out what’s happening with Antoinette—although it’s still mysterious—and with Lily’s emotions in an ending that seems rushed after so much florid buildup (“Seth made her feel lit up from within, as if by a thousand fireflies”). The sections where the narrator gets inside Antoinette's head and explains what she’s feeling are interesting, even captivating at times, and finely written.
A novel that tries to be a family drama, a romance, and a story of disability might have succeeded better if it had focused more on Antoinette.