Miracle Man

Ben Schrank, Author, Ben Shrank, Author Harper Perennial $13 (304p) ISBN 978-0-688-16771-4
Both a muscular and witty adventure and the moving coming-of-age story of a middle-class youth who determinedly slides down the social scale, Schranks debut discloses a promising talent. Kelly Minter begins his rebellion against his ultra-liberal parents expectations by dropping out of Vassar and taking a job at Miracle Movers in Manhattan. A petty thief since his Puerto Rican Fresh Air Fund brother initiated him to its thrills, he soon begins pocketing small items from the houses of his customers, attempting to redeem himself by making handouts to destitute strangers. Meanwhile, hes trying to seduce Luz, a beautiful, tough single mother, a petty criminal herself. Wytold, first a customer and then a boss, offers Kelly the chance to make fortunes through large-scale art theft, and soon Kelly is renting a $7000-a-month apartment just off Park Avenue. His first act upon moving into his luxurious digs is to order a restaurants entire menu delivered to his door. After eating every last bite, he collapses, a wretched poster child for excess and for the unquenchable needs he is seeking to fill. Soon, unforeseen complications drain his pocketbook and his energies, ending his ragtag Robin Hood career. Kellys life is desperate and isolated; big takes are all the smaller for the thiefs lack of lasting gratification. Although his streetwise voice steers the book, other voices, such as the heartless and demanding Wytold and Kellys self-righteous older brother, a plastic surgeon, provide perspective and contrast. Describing Kellys deliberate steps toward criminal behavior, Schranks matter-of-fact prose is lucid and immediate, rendering each of Kellys painful or flippant thoughts resonant and consequential. In the end, Kellys hard-earned wisdomcomprising street smarts and emotional maturitytouches the readers heart. (June) FYI: Schranks monthly column for Seventeen, Bens Life, was optioned by Disney/Touchstone television.
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
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