In his latest novel, Cushman (Hospital Work, 2013, etc.) introduces a minor miracle into a staid hospital setting, and magic happens.
Dr. Boles “couldn’t quite figure out how, or why, such a thing would be here.” Outside the entrance to a Greensboro, North Carolina, hospital is a hopscotch outline, its “colors of yellow, red, green and blue” adorned with the playful challenge Try It. Walter Winslow of the hospital’s board of trustees isn’t having it and straightaway calls the housekeeping department to erase it. Somehow, the hopscotch board keeps reappearing. Inexplicable but welcome, its presence comes as a mysterious relief to a large cast of hard-luck cases: a sick little girl who can barely remember what it’s like not to be sick, a bitter veteran who left his legs in Iraq, a beleaguered CEO who can’t make the hospital as successful as the board would like, a local reporter with a marriage on the rocks. Once the hopscotch chalk has come to stay, things change. A stiff-shouldered doctor “jumped his way across the boxes, before heading to his car”; an old man with dementia recognizes his wife again as he sees her hopping along the board; pediatricians write their patients prescriptions reading “have fun, go outside and play 2 x a day.” John, the janitor so often tasked with graffiti removal, briefly considers hiding somewhere to see who keeps drawing this one on the sidewalk, but he decides that “life, he knew, was short on mysteries, and this was one he didn’t mind leaving unsolved.” Cushman has written an unabashedly inspirational novel, one that aims to quicken the reader’s spirits and deliver exemplary lessons through the eyes of characters we can’t help but pity and feel fondness toward. Miracles can still take place, even in the dourest spots. Some readers may find it implausible that a thing so small as a chalk game could bring such joy to a diverse and embittered group, but others will find the book uplifting.
A clear, inspiring story about needing a bit of hope to cross the distance.