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Pat Wellington: 'Anatomy of a Miracle'

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By Pat Wellington

Twenty-six-year-old Cameron Harris has been a paraplegic for four years due to a land mine incident suffered in Afghanistan. He lives with his older sister Tanya in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi neighborhood where only half the houses made it through Katrina. Then one day in the parking lot of the Biz-E-Bee grocery store where his sister was shopping, he suddenly rises up from his wheelchair and begins to walk.

People start screaming and praising God. Then when his sister posts the story and a photo of Cam standing beside his wheelchair on Facebook, the whole thing goes viral.

Tour buses bearing people from across the country make pilgrimages to the parking lot they turn into a shrine. The Vietnamese couple running the grocery store begin selling miracle-themed merchandise, including a snow globe that features a tiny man in a wheelchair who stands when the globe is tilted. In short, it’s a circus that keeps exploding.

Not to be outdone, the producer of a reality show signs Cam up for a series called “Miracle Man.” The media pile-ons seem to be manifestations of the human impulse to make sense of the inexplicable.

However, skeptics, Janice Lorimar-Cuevas, Cameron’s doctor and Vatican investigator Euclid Abbascia explore a conspiracy theory. Janice, who has seen Cameron at his worst and then in his TV-ready makeover, finds it impossible to reconcile the two personas.

Both a bonus and a drawback is the author’s probing of each character’s backstory in great detail that touches on the person’s worldviews and unresolved questions. But these backstories, unfortunately, slow down the reader.

In using fictional techniques to produce a realistic docudrama compiled perhaps by an observant journalist, Miles has created a compelling saga that’s often hilarious and yet serious in raising provocative issues of the day.