African American Literature
2000. Miracle’s Boys. New
York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 0-399-23113-7.
Told in 13-year-old
Lafayette’s honest, probing voice, Miracle’s Boys is a well-written,
realistic novel that will stay with the reader long after the final page. Lafayette
lives alone with his two brothers, twenty-two year old Ty’ree and fifteen-year-old Charlie. Their father died before
Lafayette was born. Their mother died two years ago, and nothing has been the
same since. Lafayette misses his mother and feels responsible for not saving her
from the insulin shock that caused her death. To add to his loneliness, he has
lost his brother, Charlie. Yes, Charlie is still there in body, but since returning from two years in a reform school, Charlie
has become hard and hateful. While Ty’ree is a blessing for the preteen, Tyree is struggling with his own issues. The
reader is invited into Lafayette’s inner world to share several days
in the brothers’ lives. We watch as the brothers tackle hard issues, undergo difficulties, and ultimately emerge with
more closeness and empathy, or in Ty’ree’s words, “b to b to b” (brother to brother to brother).
This is a story about
loss and about beginning to move beyond loss. All of the brothers have experienced heavy losses. Lafayette
has lost his mother, his brother, and his old way of being in the world. Ty’ree has lost his mother, his chance to go
to MIT, his youth, and his freedom. Charlie has lost his mother, his ability to leave her with happy "Charlie" memories, his
feelings, and his innocence. This also is a story about growth and change. Lafayette
becomes more forgiving of Charlie and himself, and he learns to be more giving to Charlie. Ty’ree learns to talk about
matters that he was trying to suppress. Charlie begins to let his heart melt and to grieve for things lost forever, although
the reader wonders if Charlie could really change this much in a short time span.
While the brothers are half African-American
and half Puerto Rican, they live their lives in the African-American culture. Ms. Woodson provides
many cultural markers including musical preferences; names; rich, authentic dialogue; and support from an extended family
member. Charlie says he is going to be a rapper, and he frequently makes statements such as,"Brothers is the baddest"
(1). Ty'ree says, "Yo, yo, yo...Time to get up and eat sleepyhead" (50). Lafayyette has an at home language
and a "public" or school language. In the police station, he tells the officer, "My brother say he ain't - he didn't
steal the car" (p. 101). After the mother dies, a great aunt from the south helps out frequently, although
the boys have not seen her in years.
Readers of all ethnicities
will identify with the brothers' feelings and bonding. After finishing the book, many readers will feel especially
close to Lafayette, who shares intimate feelings and bares his soul. This novel is recommended for ages 10 and up.