We have all been asked to put our trust into someone or something at one time or another. But is that trust deserved? We are asked to have faith in things like: family, friends, employers, religion and so on yet we can’t help to question that trust sometimes. That is the major theme that the characters grapple with in Amanda Leduc’s novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men, making it a must read for many of us confused by this “modern era.”
Page 14 Thursday
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Like riding a bike, the old cliché. The church felt the same, which shouldn’t have surprised him but did – it had been two years, only that, and somehow it felt as though he’d been gone forever. Worn floorboards and the same threadbare cushions in every pew.
But it wasn’t the same, not really, because Father Jim wasn’t there. Instead, a small dark-haired man shook Sam’s hand and directed him into a pew. His name, he said, was Father Mario. His voice was also small – Sam had to still himself completely to hear him, which was probably the point.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” he repeated. Though he hadn’t come to confess and didn’t believe in sin anyway. But there – that was he started.
“How long has it been since your last confession?” The priest’s accent was soft and unobtrusive. Filipino, maybe – a roly-poly young boy who’d grown up with the light of God in his eyes.
“I don’t know,” and he shifted in his pew. He’d eschewed the anonymity of the confessional on the chance that Father Mario might have noticed the wings, like Emma, but so far he hadn’t said anything. “I’m not a fan of confession, actually.”
The priest smiled. “Most people aren’t.”
“I’m,” he felt restless now, “not here to confess. I need . . .some advice?”
The plot deals with two main characters. Sam has woken up to find himself growing wings while Lilah, who has lost her brother Timothy to the streets of Vancouver, falls into an abusive relationship of her boss. Both characters feel lost in where their lives is taking them. But the beauty of the novel is the language that Leduc uses to tell the story. It is frank, bold and simple. A pleasure to read.
The first time Lilah swore, she was fourteen. This was the year before mascara, that last year when she still thought nothing of wearing sweat pants to school. Roberta was still a year or so away from the Fernwood house, and Carl had left. They had moved, the three of them, into the basement apartment of an old house in Oak Bay. There were spiders. Lilah shared a room with Roberta and pretended not to notice the muffled sobs, the shaking that came from the other bed with her at some point in the night. Usually, Timothy would crawl into bed with her at some point in the night. He burned as he slept – a human furnace that smelled of snow and dirt and air.
That day, she walked home from school to the rhythm of her times tables. Eight times eight is sixty-four. Eight times nine is seventy-two. She’d always had trouble with these, and she was concentrating so hard that she missed the curb. Her foot buckled and down went the rest of her. Her face smacked against the stone.
She lay still for the moment, and then stumbled to her feet, the copper taste of shock warm in her mouth. Raised a hand and felt it, warm beneath her nose.
“Say fuck,” said a voice. She turned – slowly, still unsure of the world – and saw a boy. He was breathing hard; he’d been running. Later, Lilah would realize that he’d run to her. It had been a spectacular fall.
“Are you all right?” he said. Sixteen? Seventeen? She couldn’t tell.
“I think so.” Her words were slurred.
“Say fuck,” he said again. “It will make you feel better, I promise.”
“Fuck,” she whispered into the air. The word took shape and danced. Not good, a word brought to life with dirt and blood. But she didn’t know that then. She wouldn’t know until years later. Fuck and blood, linked forever.
Amanda Leduc has captured thoughts and emotions from our society in her novel The Miracles of Ordinary Men that perhaps haven’t been fully expressed by us all yet. Her characters fumble and struggle with life unsure on how to move forward with it. This is one of those reads that needs to be savoured and pondered over. Not one that is read quickly and forgotten about.