Rochelle Jewel Shapiro,
Miriam the Medium
(Simon & Schuster, 2004)

Miriam the Medium is Rochelle Jewel Shapiro's first novel. The setting is New York City, first in Queens, then in Great Neck. In this delightful tale, interesting characters take center stage.

This is Miriam's story. If Rory, the husband, and Cara, the daughter, are upstaged by Miriam, it's because very few mothers have Miriam's gift of seeing past, present and future in the people around her. Cara is embarrassed when Rory is aware that his wife's abilities can stop the family drugstore business from sliding toward certain ruin. In response, Miriam creates a home office and offers her services as Miriam the Medium, Telephone Psychic. Both the public and her family will benefit.

This is not as farfetched as it sounds. Miriam's Russian grandmother, Bubbie, fled Russia in a time of political upheaval and it was her clairvoyant's eye that saved her life many times. She was delighted to discover that her small grandchild was herself, in miniature. Miriam was able, even then, to catch the flickering images that come with the aura surrounding everyone she observed. As she grew older, she caught glimpses of the choices people can make to avert trouble. Gently, she pointed the way to safety to her clients as her grandmother might have done.

Miriam sees her own life spinning out of orbit at the same time Cara thinks she is in love with a wild boy on a motorcycle. What about her dreams of getting an acceptance letter from Cornell and earning her degree there? She sees Cara skipping school and riding on That Boy's motorcycle -- without a helmet. She sees this psychically, but she knows it is true. What would her grandmother do? She gets no subliminal messages from her mentor so she knows she is on her own.

Miriam undergoes a transformation, though taking charge aggressively is new to her. She becomes firm with her clients -- and with Cara -- and it works like a charm. Miriam is a wonderful character to watch and her funny dialogue and commentary are treats.

Write what you know, say the pundits. Did I say that Shapiro's grandmother's story is true? Did I add that Shapiro got her material from her own life as a phone psychic? It's yes and yes to both questions. And finally, will this book be the steppingstone for another? Without a doubt.

- Rambles
written by Jean Marchand
published 18 September 2004