The Hermitage House Miracle
By Malcolm Ater
Published on May 26, 2012
Published by Blue Ridge Mountain Books
Summary from Goodreads:
As Jamie lay alone in bed, not knowing his mother had just been killed while driving drunk, he was filled with disturbing thoughts. His mother's last words to him before going out did not make sense. He was even more confused when she had added, in a drunken slur, "If I had a lick of sense I'd have let old Ernie do what he wanted!"
Why had his mother said she had given him the last six years of her life when he was twelve years old?
After being sent to live at the Hermitage House for Children, Jamie begins to have a series of strange and troubling dreams. Each dream is about a little blond-haired boy who has a little sister and a mother and a father. But the mother is not his mother who was killed in the car accident and he had never known his father. Yet his dreams are always about the same family, especially the little boy and his dog. And the father programs computers and makes games, even promising to build the boy a video game so lifelike the boy will think he's actually inside it...
The Hermitage House Miracle is a middle-grade book following the journey of Jamie as he goes from orphan to withdrawn foster child. This kid has gotten a pretty raw deal in life: his mother is never home, is verbally and emotionally and probably physically abusive to him. She's more interested in getting drunk than spending time with her child. Jamie's forced to grow up very quickly, even before his mother dies. He doesn't really know how to relate to the other boys at Hermitage House, boys who know how to play and have fun and laugh. Slowly, a new friend brings Jamie out of his shell as he starts to learn that there is good in the world.
Despite a lot of bad things happening to Jamie, this is a pretty uplifting story. It has a pretty strong message of hope and perseverance, and also of the importance of family, and love. The women who run the Hermitage House show Jamie a kind of unconditional love that he's never had before. Even when Jamie says things that are just too good to be true, or too hard to believe, no one turns on him or calls him a liar. The Hermitage House Miracle is a simple story with a happy ending, something that is often missing from YA books these days.
My biggest problem with this book was the dialogue. It just never felt real to me. The book is supposed to take place in the early 90s, but the characters all talk like they're out of the 40s. There's a lot of "golly gee!" and "shucks", and many of the children have dialogue that sounds like it should be coming out of an adult's mouth instead of someone 10 to 12 years old. One of Jamie's first lines is "Oh, Mother, stay and eat your dinner. Please don't go." I picture a little kid out of Newsies, not your average 12 year old boy. It just doesn't feel authentic to me, and I nearly stopped reading more than once because of it.
This would definitely be best for younger readers who are confident with longer chapter books but who may not raise too many eyebrows at the dialogue sounding wrong. There are some potentially scary scenes and younger readers may want to talk about the things that happened to Jamie before he came to Hermitage House, so I would recommend an adult previewing the book first.