The Miracles of Ordinary Men by Amanda Leduc

Amanda Leduc’s debut novel, The Miracles of Ordinary Men, is a modern faith story. It asks all the hard questions about belief, destiny, redemption, pain, and God. There are two main protagonists who get an equal share of ten chapters each, an interesting set up. The first is an atheist English teacher named Sam, who wakes up one day to discover he has sprouted wings, and the other is Lilah, a woman trying to hang on to her splintering family as she enters into a violent relationship with her boss.

Both Sam and Lilah’s lives are rapidly changing in ways they cannot understand. Leduc beautifully captures the struggle to understand why things go the way they do, and if there is actually a reason for it. Her text challenges what a miracle means, and the duality of all things. There is both beauty and pain as Sam’s wings continue to grow. Lilah discovers freedom in the subjugation she receives from “the harsh hand of her boss.” Each turn in Leduc’s narrative will shock you. Though it is a weighty text which navigates spirituality, loss, and growth, the pace of the story is nerve-wracking. You’ll not want to stop reading until you have seen Sam and Lilah through each new development, and as the chapters count down from ten to one you’ll keep wondering what could possibly happen next. Leduc doesn’t disappoint.

All the characters in this novel seem to have their own point of view on faith and destiny. While Sam and Lilah are the central characters undergoing a change, those around them also get caught up in the transformation and come to question for themselves what it means to be chosen. The tricky question: is The Miracles a redemptive novel? This is one question you will have to answer for yourself at the end. Like Life of Pi, The Miracles is a text that requires interaction with the reader’s own beliefs. Sam and Lilah change without a doubt, but can change be penance for things done in the past? Does suffering mean that you are absolved of mistakes made? Personally, I see the book as open-ended. Despite all that happens, I do not see that Sam and Lilah are forgiven but rather that they come to live with what they have. 

Leduc has written a wonderful story which prompts a personal exploration of the meaning of miracles, whether it is better to be ordinary or extraordinary, and moreover, what it means to be either. This is a fantastic piece of Canadian literature for readers who like to look deeper into a text and ask a lot of questions.

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