ORDINARY MIRACLES

Raised in a Christian family by a father who is a staunch fundamentalist minister, twins Matthew and Mark Filkins come to terms with their religious beliefs when a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist returns to the town of Bradyville, Ohio. Colin Hendrick is dying of cancer and wants to spend his final days in his hometown. He teaches Mark and Matthew’s eight-grade class about the web of life and the ordinary miracle of the minuscule organisms that fill the air and water. Even before Colin shows up, Mark has begun to question the “twin thing,” and to assert his individuality. On the role of science, he has genuine disagreements with Matthew and their father, who both believe that genetic engineering is tampering with God’s creation; Mark takes Colin’s view, that God and man are co-creators. Tolan (The Face In the Mirror, 1998, etc.) exhibits laudatory scope as she attempts to reconcile the strict beliefs of the fundamentalist family from Save Halloween! (1993) with the modern world; she strives for evenhandedness, though often at the expense of the story, interrupting the narrative for long religious and scientific explanations. The characterization of Mark is both well-rounded and believable; readers will identify with this down-to-earth teenager as he struggles to find his own identity, understand the values of his parents, and come to his own conclusions about the merits of faith and science. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16269-X

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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DEATH ON SACRED GROUND

An interesting but not always successful mix of Jewish and Iroquois/Seneca tradition, custom, and lore form the backdrop for this mystery set in upstate New York. Tenth-grader Aviva “Vivi” Hartman has come with her rabbi father from Buffalo to a small town so that Rabbi Hartman can conduct the funeral of a Jewish high-school girl found dead on sacred Indian ground. It becomes clear before long, however, that the victim, allegedly killed in an accident while on an archery-club outing, was murdered. Vivi passes the time while in town working on a project for a social-studies class back at her own school: following a student around and taking notes about her life and activities. When that student experiences a near-brush with death, Vivi becomes convinced that the girl is the target of a killer trying to hush her up. Did this girl, the school photographer who accompanied the archery club, capture the murder on film? Vivi puts her knowledge of pilpul—the ancient Jewish system of logic used to decipher passages of the Torah—to work and sets about solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the long-simmering relations between a group of white students and some of the Senecas threaten to burst, with members of each group accusing the other of murder and bringing to the fore some lurid details about the victim's and the accused murderer's lives. Feder interweaves details of Jewish and Seneca traditions and ceremonies and is knowledgeable about and respectful of both groups, and the solutions to the murder and another mystery are unexpected, though not entirely plausible. Confirmed mystery readers will probably take to this one, but it's nothing special; characterizations are superficial and the writing is, for the most part, awkward. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8225-0741-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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