Miriam the Medium
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Simon & Schuster
Trade Paperback/309 pages
ISBN: 1-4165-7829-3
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". . . a lovely and fascinating trip to the psychic realms."

A tale of tea leaves, family and the power of love and clear sight.

Like her Bubbe, Miriam has the gift of second sight, a gift her mother abhors, her father accepts and her Bubbe begins to train. Pulled in two directions by her mother’s more modern sensibilities and Bubbe’s magical abilities, Miriam is torn by love and respect. When she meets and marries Rory, she believes she has found someone who accepts and treasures her for herself and her gifts, but as time takes its toll on their marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Miriam’s gift seems more a curse than a blessing. Her daughter is embarrassed. The neighbors in their upper class neighborhood spy on her and her next door neighbor is openly hostile. Rory’s pharmacy is failing and Miriam can barely keep them afloat using her gift to help people by phone. Everything is falling apart until an agent contacts Miriam and offers her money and fame, an offer that the ghost of Miriam’s Bubbe does not approve. Bubbe deserts Miriam and refuses to come back even when she pleads for guidance when her daughter, Cara, disappears with a dangerous boy, leaving Miriam to find them on her own by trusting herself and her gift.

A novel about a psychic and medium should be clear-sighted, but this reader was disappointed in the way Miriam bounced between the past and the present, with more confusion about the present than the past. Shapiro’s heroine flails around like she is drowning. Miriam is whiny but she is a believable, if not a winning, character – at first. There are glimmers of a sympathetic character I wanted to like and she finally came through in the end.

Miriam the Medium is unevenly paced but offers enough interesting glimpses to keep the pages turning until it finds its feet, much like the heroine, and marches resolutely to a happy ending with all questions answered and the murky waters cleared. Shapiro’s world of ragged hems and struggling familial relationships among the privileged class is authentic but could have been better focus in the first half of the book. Where Shapiro’s prose and characters are most solid is when she wanders into the past alongside Miriam solidly tugging on the heart strings with winning and comprehensible characters that know who and what they are. Miriam’s husband, Rory, is at best a sketch and the crucial information and relationships even sketchier, but in the end Shapiro comes through with concrete and clearly drawn relationships that make Miriam the Medium a lovely and fascinating trip to the psychic realms.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell