Miraculous

 
4.2 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
167 0
Miraculous
Age Range
10+
Release Date
July 26, 2022
ISBN
978-1984813152
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Thirteen-year-old Jack knows what cured his baby sister when his family thought she might never get well—Dr. Kingsbury’s “Miraculous Tonic.” Guaranteed to relieve maladies known to man or beast, Dr. Kingsbury’s potion can cure everything from pimples to hearing loss to a broken heart, and Jack himself is a witness to the miraculous results and the doctor’s kindness. When he had no money, the doctor didn’t turn him away but gave him the tonic for free along with a job—to travel with him from city to city selling his cure-all elixir.

When Dr. Kingsbury and Jack arrive in Oakdale, the town at first feels like any other they’ve been to. But it’s clear Oakdale is a town with secrets, and its citizens are slow to trust strangers. 
 
Then Jack meets Cora, and a friendship neither expected starts to bloom. Together they uncover something else they didn’t expect—not only secrets about the town but also Dr. Kingsbury. As they race to discover the truth, they’ll have to decide who and what to believe before it’s too late.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Suspicious Snake Oil Salesman
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Cora lives in the town of Oakdale, Ohio in the late 1800s. It's a small, close knit town with its share of strange traditions and secrets. When Dr. Kingsbury and his young assistant Jack arrive in town to hawk their patent medicine during October of a year of terrible drought, things get interesting. Another boy who worked with the doctor, Isaac, had a falling out with his employer and left suddenly. This leaves a lot of responsibility that falls on Jack. Jack, who is from Kentucky, is working with the doctor because his "Miraculous Tonic" saved his baby sister Lucy from dying after a fever and illness. He sends his wages home, but misses his family and is starting to have suspicions about Dr. Kingsbury. His methods of increasing business start to seem shady the more Jack gets involved in mustering crowds and addressing them with the benefits of this miracle drug. There are many in town who seek him out, especially after a demonstration "cures" a local man of his deafness. Mr. Ogburn, the school teacher, has a bad tremor. Miss Moore, the milliner, has debilitating headaches, but also thinks she recognizes the brash and singular doctor from her home in Indiana. Cora herself is dealing with her grandmother's failing memory. We also see flashback from Silas, who worked on a farm that had a horrible when he was a boy and who has come back to buy the farm and reconnect with his past. When Jack finds out some secrets about Dr. Kingsbury and sees him play with the emotions of the townspeople, promising that the tonic will end the drought in order to boost sales, he realizes that he must speak up against the fraudulent doctor, even if this puts him in danger. Will he be able to alert Oakdale before tragedy occurs?
Good Points
Aside from Fowler's Snakes and Stones (Sky Pony Press 2016), I can't think of another book that addresses patent medicine sales, or traveling salesmen at all. These would have been a large part of rural communities from the 1880s well into the 1940s. My mother spoke nostalgically about "the dish man" who would visit their farm, sharpening knives and selling a variety of kitchen equipment. Oakdale is a fairly typical community, and we see a wide selection of residents and how they interact. There is a lot of good description of what the Miraculous tonic is, how it is made, and how Dr. Kingsbury markets it to people; it clears up everything from skin blemishes to crippled legs, and much of its power comes from believing it will work. The author's informative note at the back would be good for young readers unfamiliar with the concept of patent medicine or of daily life in the late 1800s to read first. One thing I particularly thought was interesting was how slowly news moved at the time; Miss Moore has to write a letter to her mother asking about Dr. Kingsbury, and it's only because some recent news about a case concerning him has come to light again that her mother has some information for her! A very interesting and well done book about an underrepresented facet of US history.

I've been hanging out with blood thirsty tweens too much. This felt like it could have taken a really dark turn, and that Dr. Kingsbury could have had a trail of dead teen boys who crossed him throughout the midwest. This didn't happen in any kind of gruesome way; I was just as glad, but my readers would have been more likely to pick this up if it had!

This was a great historical novel in the vein of Parry's Last of the Name, Hilmo's Cinnamon Moon, or MacColl's Rory's Promise. Those seem a bit random; I think Jack, and the fact that he left his family at such a young age and had to work because of economic hardship is the thread that these stories together.
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Some things are too good to be true.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The mystery of Dr. Kingsbury and a tonic that cures everything drives the plot. How can one medicine cure skin ailments, hearing loss, and disease? How well does Jack actually know the doctor and his past? The elixir’s ingredients are never revealed but the symptoms of some characters improve or disappear. The explanation might be a coincidence but it doesn’t explain how a man’s hearing comes back or another man is finally able to walk without crutches. The unknown aura surrounding Dr. Kingsbury will keep readers captivated as they try to discover the truth about this character and his tonic.
Dr. Kingsbury is an intriguing and perplexing character as he displays the light and dark sides of his personality. He’s charming and empathetic with the townspeople as he inquires about their problems and ailments. However, Dr. Kingsbury strikes another employee for challenging him and this character leaves and never returns. However, he’s not forgotten as Jack continues to think about his friend and tries to learn what’s happened. Dr. Kingsbury treats Jack well enough but his mood can swing drastically when he’s displeased. While the health of his customers seems to be a high priority, making money by selling more tonic is his main motivation. Who is this man?
One subplot involves a character named Simon. When he was younger, Simon once traveled to Oakdale looking for a job to help his family. He worked as a farmhand for a man named McCall despite being treated poorly by other boys working for the farmer. Now, he’s returned to buy McCall’s deteriorating farm and observes events around town from afar. Ms. Moore owns a hat store and struggles to remember where she previously saw the doctor and has trouble feeling welcome in Oakdale even after living there for years. Then, there’s an oak tree in the center of town that represents the citizens’ deep roots and their close-knit community. A picket fence encloses the tree for protection, although it may have symbolic meaning too. Finally, the lone school teacher begins to suffer from a disease and fears he may be fired from his position.
What didn’t work as well:
I often dislike plots told from various points of view and the early part of this narrative shifts between multiple characters and time. This creates some confusion as the story develops since it’s more challenging to make connections with unfamiliar characters and events. Rest assured everything comes together and the author saves a few surprises as the plot nears its climax.
The Final Verdict:
Some things are too good to be true. The book features several compelling stories concerning interactions between members of a closed community and several recently-arrived characters. The overall story teaches a lesson about acceptance and morals. The plot isn’t overly dramatic but I recommend you give it a shot.
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