Terminal illness consumes the lives of those suffering from it, and of their loved ones. Anna Beecher’s debut novel is a beautiful exploration of love and loss, and of the relationships surrounding a cancer sufferer.
Miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Joe, a baby born prematurely, survives his early arrival into the world. Decades earlier, Edward falls in love with his best friend, Jack, and becomes infatuated with him. Years later, he meets and marries Eleanor, a teacher, whom he has two children with. When Joe is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, his sister Emily and the rest of his family wait for a miracle that won’t come. The beautifully candid motif, ‘people could die’, that runs through the entire novel, perfectly evokes the fragility of life.
Here Comes the Miracle explores themes of terminal illness, homosexuality and family, poignantly examining the love and grief that these can provoke. As the lives of Edward, Eleanor, Joe and Emily unfold, reading Here Come the Miracle felt like piecing together a jigsaw, where every correctly placed piece makes the image of their lives progressively clearer.
Beecher’s characters are intriguing and complex, showing the different stages of life and how potential loss can drastically alter one’s perspective. Emily talks to Joe about how she feels and how this traumatic experience has changed her life. If these were Emily’s diary entries, it would be the ultimate purification of one’s emotions.
Beecher’s use of the second person when Emily takes over the narrative voice creates sympathy for her, as the directness and honesty in her speech is a raw and candid portrayal of pain. The reader is put into Emily’s shoes as soon as she starts speaking.
The subtlety in the novel’s exploration of homosexuality is particularly powerful. Many novelists still seem to shy away from gay characters, but Beecher shows sexuality in a refreshingly indirect way. Edward’s relationship with his friend, Jack, blossoms so naturally, despite existing in a time period which would have opposed their union. Beecher paints a picture of their relationship, and the secret intimacy that had to be kept behind closed doors.
“Edward closed his eyes. The world fell back. Their fingers touched. Edward ran his fingertips over the back of Jack’s hand and then up, grazing his arm.”
The unremarkableness of their intimacy says so much in so few words. The inevitability of its outcome is shattering.
Beecher’s closeness to the story is what it makes it feel so intimate and authentic. Her brother, John, died during her second year studying Creative Writing with English Literature at the University of Westminster. She began writing Here Comes the Miracle a month after his death.
It’s a wonderfully moving novel that shows why appreciating the people closest to us is so important, and that ‘people could die’.
Words by Adam Laver
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