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Reviewed by Donna Rifkind

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The challenge of faith takes a different form in Keith Scribner’s engaging second novel, Miracle Girl (Riverhead, 256 pages, $23.95). Things are not going well for John Fitzgerald Kennedy Quinn, a 30-ish real-estate salesman for the Catholic Church in an ailing industrial city in upstate New York. His live-in girlfriend seems restless. He’s afraid of his boss, a cranky bishop named Frank. His job is going nowhere, and his attempts to curry favor with a rival real-estate company are causing him nothing but grief.

Making matters worse, rumors about a mysterious half-Vietnamese, half-black “miracle girl” who has suddenly developed healing powers drives both the Church and the city into an uproar, snarling traffic with incoming pilgrims and making the bishop even crankier.

Will the miracle girl prove to be the key to the dying city’s comeback, or is she a fake? Will the unbelieving Quinn stumble upon a reason for faith, reconcile with his girlfriend and find financial satisfaction? In providing answers, Scribner’s urban comedy is spirited and often poignant.

© 2003, The Baltimore Sun