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The James Miracle is definitely not a romance novel, but it makes for a fitting Valentine story.  Written by Jason F. Wright, this debut piece of fiction is a love story in the truest sense – a diamond of a book that makes us consider the state of love in our lives. 

Most of us like to think our relationship with that “special someone” is vibrant, growing and living.  At moments, however, it does become stale, neglected, or in need of healing, rejuvenation or repair.  Wright’s book, reminiscent of Mitch Albom’s work, will make you want to preserve everything good, exciting and new about love.  It is worth an evening read on the couch.  It would make a thoughtful Valentine gift.  And best of all, this short but affecting story puts the miracle of love in its proper place – above the difficult and distracting world.

People and Places

Wright is a native Virginian and currently resides with his family in the Washington D.C. area.  As a result, the book is set in the nation’s capital and seems to echo some of the experiences he and his family may have had while living in this fast-paced place.  The book was originally written by the author as a gift for his wife, but was quickly adopted and adored by close friends and family.  Now the book is available through Millennial Press.  It was well worth publishing.

Wright introduces us to Sam Foster who describes himself as “Average” with a capital A.  The story is told from Sam’s perspective.  Sam bumps into, or rather hunts down, the woman of his dreams while on the metro during a commute home.  Holly Walker is a witty and clever Georgetown student who sees right through his flirty charm and gives him a chance.  Sam believes Holly is his ticket out of “Average.”  The two date and eventually marry.  Both become successful in their professions.  They seem to live near-perfect lives, at least from the outsider’s glance.

Then we meet James.  James is the reason the Fosters come home at night.  He is their first and only son, born soon after they were married.  James is their life work, their joy.  He is the part of Sam and Holly that keeps them somewhat unified, though family moments grow scarce as work and the need to “get ahead” furtively steals their time.  Most of the book takes place while James is ten years old.  James loves water, sailboats, and his parents.  He carves his favorite sailboat out of wood with his father.  His mother makes him a red sail and on the side they paint the boat’s name, James Miracle.

Chance, Change and Miracles

When Sam was young, his father, “a very wise philosopher,” told him over hot caramel sundaes that “life’s miracles happen when you least expect them.”  This is the silver lining of Wright’s story.  Below is an excerpt from the prologue.

“He said it wasn’t the well-planned, made-for-television moments that change and define us.  Instead, our destiny is determined by how we choose to weave into our lives the random, unexpected happenings on seemingly normal Thursday afternoons.  Be prepared for chance, change, and miracles,’ he offered with a wise wink.  He preached that miracles would come in a thousand and one different packages. And some will feel better on your soul than others,’ he finished with a wrinkled smile, tapping the end of my nose with his dripping oversized dessert spoon.  Sadly, that wise man died when I was too young to fully appreciate his wisdom.  It’s a shame; my father was a genius” (1).

The prologue continues,

“At any given second, somewhere in this grand old world of His, someone kneels beside a bed, or a couch, or inside a mildewed cardboard box underneath some remote high-way overpass, and asks, God, do miracles exist?’  They do.  And not just on Thursday afternoons” (2).

But it is on a Thursday afternoon that the Fosters are jolted out of their daily grind, to a place where the very foundations of their relationship are tested and tried.  Sam and Holly find themselves grasping at hope and struggling to know if it is worth working to reclaim the love that once brought them together.  Through success and sorrow, the Fosters realize a joy that exceeds anything the world can offer.  Real in its challenges, the book will tug at your soul, reminding you that people are precious and time is short.

Sailing Strong

The Fosters’ journey is full of fluid twists and turns.  It has the feel of the river, sometimes rough, other times calm, but always it is moving forward and occasionally to the most unlikely place.  It is appropriate that Wright’s style of writing, with its lilt and pull, keeps the book afloat, just as the river keeps a sailboat atop the water.

I loved The James Miracle.  I hope this will not be the last of Jason Wright’s fiction.  It is a charming story that works on many levels.  Spiritual meaning, in less obvious forms, can be found in many layers within the text.  It is there for those who have eyes to see it.  The symbolism, the candidness, the ability to identify with such contemporary and normal characters brings the book strongly home. 

As the story comes to a conclusion, Wright makes this observation.

“For each true love in our lives, a small sailboat must be carved and painted.  Each must sail strong on His water.  It’s not the size of the waves or strength of the current.  It’s the power of the boat.'” (98)

This is a good message for us to contemplate as the holiday for sweethearts approaches.  Surely there is more to love than simply floating along with ease.  When our love is challenged or the circumstances around it intensify, the real mettle of our hearts burns through. True love can sail strong upon the waves if we take time to fortify it.  Thanks to Jason Wright and his James Miracle for giving us a new and inspiring way to look at love.