House of Miracles - A Novel

 

House of Miracles takes place in Brazil in the 1960s. It tells the story of one man's quest to find himself and achieve his dream of creating a new life in the rawness of the Brazilian backlands. In the course of doing so, Steve falls in love with a beautiful and mysterious black woman named Malaika--a mulata descended from the blending of African slaves with the Portuguese colonists. Through her, he learns the true nature of love and the sacrifices it entails. Rich with the mystique of Brazil and its blend of African, indigenous Indian, and Portuguese cultures, the story takes the reader through exotic jungles and wastelands and into the seamy side of Brazilian violence and vigilante justice, before Steve accomplishes what he set out to do. Meanwhile, his religious beliefs are challenged when he is exposed to Macumba, a black religious cult characterized by ritual dancing and sorcery. Accompanying Steve on this journey are some unforgettable characters, not the least of which are several slightly lecherous but lovable old men who will charm the reader as they narrate the tale.

 

In the backlands of Brazil, there is a small town called Juazeiro do Norte, and in it a modest building called A Casa das Milagres--The House of Miracles. It is the former home of Padre Cicero, a backwoods priest who in life was thought to have performed miraculous healings, and who in death is now considered a saint by much of the population of Northeast Brazil. In the house one finds all manner of gruesome wooden carvings, portraying every type of wound, cancer tumor, or injury. There are carvings of breasts with tumors, carvings of maimed hands missing fingers, photographs of the sick, hand-written pleas for healing, and stacks of crutches left by the lame. These artifacts are placed there by the sick or injured who hope for a miraculous healing.

 

In contrast to the devout Catholics of the region, there are those who believe in the dark gods of Macumba. When slaves were forbidden to practice their religion, they adapted the expedient of identifying their gods with catholic saints to avoid persecution. Iemanjá, goddess of the sea, is one such deity, known for the powerful protection she extends to true believers. The priestesses of this cult are known for their ability to foresee future events. Certain ceremonies and fetishes are believed to yield magical powers. A mystique of spiritualism and superstition exerts a strong influence on the every day life of many Brazilians.

 

Brazil is a huge and beautiful country, larger than the continental United States. It stretches from the equator to well south of the Tropic of Capricorn, and its vast geography encompasses huge tracts of unknown jungle and sweeping rivers in the north, a dry, thorny desert region known as the Sertão in the Northeast, and the densely populated industrialized south, where one encounters the cosmopolitan cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

 

Steve's story begins in Juazeiro do Norte, where he experiences at first hand Northeast Brazil's rich history of farmers, cattlemen, artisans, religious fanatics, and bandits who gradually tamed the rugged wilderness of Northeast Brazil and survived its devastating droughts. His goal is to start a new business, one that will create jobs and improve the lives of the Nordestinos, while at the same time fulfilling his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. His adventures take him north to the Amazon and then south to the spectacular beauty of Rio de Janeiro, where he is unwittingly caught up in a web of intrigue that almost costs him his life as he strives to save the woman he loves.

 

The novel takes place against the tapestry of this powerful and fascinating country, and is an adventure story, a love story, and a coming of age for a young American who finds himself caught up by the country and fundamentally changed by it. For Steve and Malaika, their hope is to establish their own "House of Miracles" in Northeast Brazil and create a new life.

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