“Miracle Man,” by Teen Guru, Deserves An ‘R’ Rating

by Lisa McChristian
Miracle Man

by Ben Schrank
New York, NY: Quill/Morrow, 1999
Paperback, 290 pages, $13.00

       IN HIS FIRST NOVEL, The Miracle Man, Ben Schrank tries to create a moving Robin-Hood-meets-the-20th century tale but ends up telling a matter-of-fact story of thievery and immorality in the 90’s.
        The “Miracle Man” is Martin Kelly Minter, a white 21-year-old male who exiles himself from his middle-class family and drops out of Vassar to be with a girl who he dumps before she can leave him.
       Kelly, a thief since his Puerto Rican Fresh Air Fund “brother” showed him its thrills, pockets small items from his day job with the Manhattan Miracle Movers. He justifies his thievery by convincing himself he is sickened by the greed of New York’s upper class.
       At first he tries to redeem himself by giving what he steals to the needy, but that rationale soon fades.
        As Kelly’s relationship with Luz (a Puerto Rican single teenage mother) grows, so does his desire to steal. He switches jobs when Wytold, a former customer, offers him a fortune stealing art full-time. Kelly is soon renting a $7,000-a-month apartment and ordering a restaurant’s entire menu delivered to his door.
       Money corrupts Kelly’s ideals and sends his world spinning out of control. Abandoned by those he thought were his friends, he must face up to reality and the consequences of his actions.
        Miracle Man is a tedious read that leaves you longing for a character with some redemptive quality. Giving food and money to the poor may be on Kelly’s mind, but that doesn’t appear to be his main motivation. Instead he takes a perverse pleasure out of stealing. Each theft is described as an almost sexual experience.
        Anyone with material possessions or anyone who longs to possess them is portrayed as a greedy immoral fiend who never thinks of others. Not once do any of the larcenous main characters show signs of regret for robbing the “rich,” while they grow rich themselves.
        Filled with obscenities and peppered with graphic sex scenes, this novel is more appropriate for adults who can stomach it than for the teenagers who will no doubt seek it out because Schrank is a columnist for Seventeen magazine.

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This story was published on August 4, 1999.