The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin (Hardcover)

By Stephanie Knipper

Algonquin Books, 9781616204181, 336pp.

Publication Date: August 2, 2016



In the spirit of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers--and with a touch of the magical--The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a spellbinding debut about a wondrously gifted child and the family that she helps to heal.

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family's Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose's unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.

Rose's daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness--she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor's tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.

Antoinette's gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose--the center of her daughter's life--struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.

Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

"This is the kind of book that invites you home, sits you down at the kitchen table, and feeds you something delicious and homemade. You will want to stay in this world where new relationships bloom out of broken ones, sisters find one another again, and miracles really do occur." --Tiffany Baker

Conversation Starters from

  1. In the beginning of the novel, Antoinette and Lily have a strained relationship. Antoinette feels that Lily is trying to take her mother’s place, and Lily fears that she won’t be able to care for Antoinette properly. In what ways are these two characters similar? Different? How do they begin to bridge the gap between them?
  2. On page 210, Rose says to Antoinette, “Everyone’s life is hard in some way. Yours just happens to be easier to see than most.” Do you think society views physical illness differently from emotional and/or mental struggles?
  3. After leaving seminary and reconnecting with Lily, Seth concludes, “Sometimes people make bad choices, but that fact doesn’t negate the great good in the world.” Do you agree with Seth?Why or why not?
  4. In one way or another, each character foregoes their own wants and needs in order to help someone else. Discuss the sacrifices that each character makes. Are the sacrifices reasonable?Do you believe that love requires sacrifice? Why or why not?
  5. As a child, Lily was fascinated with the Victorian language of flowers. She and Rose made a game of leaving bouquets for the other to guess the meaning. What do you think drew Lily to the language of flowers? How does she rely on that language to communicate? Is it a helpful tool or a crutch?
  6. Much of the novel centers on the different ways we communicate. Antoinette is physically unable to speak, but she is very capable of making her wishes known. Discuss the different ways that Antoinette communicates. How does her lack of speech impact the way people view her? Is their view accurate? Why or why not?
  7. When Lily discovers that Antoinette can heal people, she is overwhelmed. When Lily confronts Seth about this, he responds, “She’s a little girl who’s losing her mother. The rest of it doesn’t matter.” Is Seth right? Is Antoinette just a little girl who’s losing her mother? Do either her ability or disability change who she is as a person?
  8. In Rose’s last journal entry, she writes, “This is my fairy tale. No prince. No castles or spinning wheels to turn straw into gold. Only my daughter and me, both of us whole, both of us here together. That’s my idea of happily ever after, and it’s enough for me.” Rose’s comment suggests that our true desires are simple: a healthy life spent with our loved ones. Do you agree? Why or why not? If you agree, why do you think it is so difficult to live with this in mind?
  9. Will, a doctor, has spent his life fighting death. Near the end of the novel he says, “Death always wins in the end, Lils.” Later, Lily counters with, “Death doesn’t always win. Sometimes love does.” With whom do you agree, and why?
  10. Rose’s point of view is presented in journal entries, which are written in first person, present tense. This contrasts with Lily and Antoinette’s chapters, which are written in third person, past tense. Why do you think the author chose to present Rose’s point of view in journal entries?How would the story have changed if Rose’s chapters were written in third person, past tense like Lily’s and Antoinette’s?
  11. Antoinette has the ability to temporarily heal people, but that ability comes with a price. In addition, she can’t heal herself. What role does Antoinette’s healing ability play in the novel?Why do you think the healing is only temporary? Why do you think she can’t heal herself?
  12. At the end of the novel, Will makes a difficult choice. Why do you think he made that decision? Was it the right decision? What impact does his choice have on the novel? Was there another way he could have achieved the same outcome without such a sacrifice?