The Miracle on Monhegan Island (Hardcover)
Liveright Publishing Corporation, 9781631491795, 336pp.
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
Maine's rugged, picturesque Monhegan Island is home to weathered lobster fishermen and curious tourists...a genial if sleepy group. But when Spark Monahan--rakish prodigal son--returns unannounced to the dilapidated family home, his arrival launches a summer the likes of which this quiet town has never seen.
During Spark's absence, his young son Hally has been cared for by what remains of the Monahan family: Spark's gentle brother Hugh and their shrewd, fork-tongued father Pastor Ragnar. Pastor Ragnar has led them with an iron will and a unique religious ideology, while Hugh has been busy mending the scars of a tumultuous family history. Spark's reentry into the family is rocky; even as adolescent Hally warms to his father's flair for mischief, he struggles to define himself against this new paternal figure. Testing the limits with one dangerous prank after another, Hally suddenly stuns the entire island when he claims to have had a spiritual vision.
Though Spark remains permanently dubious about the alleged apparition, Pastor Ragnar pounces on the chance to revive his flagging church. Hally is shoved into the spotlight and, in the frenzy that follows, each man in the family fights for independence, understanding, and ultimately forgiveness against the tide of a phenomenon reaching far beyond the slippery slopes of their remote island home. Their unforgettable saga is narrated by the character best suited to sniff out the family's uneasy secrets: Spark's charismatic, fiercely loyal dog, Ned. Never at a loss for a quip on the stormy affairs of the Monahan family, Ned tells their larger-than-life story with humor and love from his uniquely privileged perspective.
An uproarious tale of an eccentric family of fathers and sons, The Miracle of Monhegan Island is another delightful summer blockbuster from Elizabeth Kelly.
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Why do you think Elizabeth Kelly chose to narrate the story from a dog’s perspective? What does this accomplish? Do you feel that Ned is a reliable narrator?
- Ned is very observant, even judgmental, about his fellow dog breeds. Does this serve merely as comic relief, or something more? How does his own breed affect his personality, and how might this relate to the longstanding familial ties on Monhegan Island?
- Ned says of Pastor Ragnor, “You can’t beat the combination of a man with wicked margins who plays at being good.” Do you believe that Pastor Ragnor is “wicked” at heart? Why or why not?
- Do you think Hally is lying about the apparition, among other things? Why might he feel the need to lie?
- Describe the island the Monahan family has lived on for generations. How do you think it relates to the story?
- Why do you think Spark left for so long and has chosen this moment to return? Was his absence properly explained?
- There are a lot of absent female characters in this story: Hally has lost his mother—the woman Spark loved so dearly—and his grandmother. Hugh doesn’t have a partner of his own, nor has Pastor Ragnor found a replacement for Hally’s grandmother. How does this loss affect the men of the Monahan family?
- The idea of certain belief—of proof, loyalty, and truth—is questioned throughout the novel. List several instances and describe. Which character’s beliefs do you find most relatable?
- Spark is mocked by his father for being an “idealist.” Which character do you think best fits that description and why?
- As a young boy coming into his own, Hally is concerned about pleasing those around him, while seemingly eager to test his own boundaries. What are Hally’s biggest worries, and why?
- Do you agree with Ned’s suspicion that Spark had always secretly believed Hally, while Pastor Ragnor never had?