This is a wonderful story about faith and miracles. The story takes place in 1963. The father, Jeremiah Land, we will discover as the story moves along, is a deeply spiritual man who spends a great deal of time in prayer and the scriptures. The story begins with Reuben's birth and he is not breathing. Jeremiah eventually takes his son and "said in a normal voice, 'Reuben Land, in the name of the Living God I am telling you to breathe.' " Reuban narrates the story from an adult perspective. He says in the beginning:
"Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature, It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave--now there's a miracle. and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.
"My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear miracles because they fear being changed--though ignoring them will change you also. Swede said another thing, too, and it rang in me like a bell: No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here's what I saw. Here's how it went. Make of it what you will.
"The fact is, the miracles that sometimes flowed from my father's fingertips had few witnesses but me. Yes, enough people saw enough strange things that Dad became the subject of a kind of misspoken folklore in our town, but most ignored the miracles as they ignored Dad himself. " (p.3-4)
This is the story of a single father raising his three children Swede 9, Reuben 11 and Davy (I think 17) in rural North Dakota. A tragedy happens to this family as the story begins to enfold that changes the direction of their life and affects them all but the love they have for one another carries them through and helps them deal with each event bringing them together even closer.
I loved the characters and family dynamics. The nine year old girl Swede was especially charming but I thought she was a little too precocious and was writing poetry I wouldn't think a girl that age could write. The narration by Reuben was beautiful and his struggles with asthma after seeing how he came into the world added an interesting dilemma to his character.
The ending was beautiful, sad, uplifting and surprising right up to the end. It had a family sweetness and a spiritual vein you don't often see in contemporary novels. This is great storytelling.