Realism Books

Review | The mirage of miracles: Cyrus Mistry’s ‘The Prospect of Miracles’

Lurches from ideas to incidents, without ever embracing the people involved

A prospect, by definition, is an as yet unrealised possibility that has power to motivate human endeavour — provided it is held to with faithfulness. Absent such commitment, prospects may multiply in number, but they diminish in importance, finally yielding no more than a thicket of flirtations, all more or less mirages. Cyrus Mistry’s new novel, The Prospect of Miracles, unfortunately illustrates this, even as it offers many tantalising flourishes.

The setting is rich with possibilities. After a long, slow illness, the beloved pastor of a small evangelical community in rural Kerala has died. His widow, Mary Agnes, the Syrian Christian daughter of a landowner, is taking up her pen to tell the true story of the man she married, and the deceptions he had practised on her and on others.

But all that is potentially gripping in this narrative soon dissipates, much like the apparition of the Pastor, appearing to Mary the very morning after his death, gives way to a piece of tinsel physical theatre that even movies have outgrown (“I shot up in bed realizing I had been dreaming”).

Admittedly, clichés lie in wait for every story, but they must be overcome with an effort of vitality, and Mistry does not accomplish this. In Miracles, the hypocritical priest remains a trope, as does the gaslighted wife. This is because neither of these central storylines acquires any thematic heft from their context and surroundings. In the place of unifying themes, Mistry offers gestures towards a range of such (perfectly relevant) topics as organised religion, end-times revelations, and the lush beauty of the natural world. His writing seems satisfied at that, and the novel lurches from interesting ideas to unexpected incidents, without ever embracing the people involved.

Having said that, Miracles features the prospect of such ambition as merits attention. Just as Mary Agnes feels called by God towards a prophetic vocation, so the reader senses a power and freshness in Mistry’s voice that await proper realisation.

The writer is the author, most recently, of The Outraged: Times of Strife.

The Prospect of Miracles; Cyrus Mistry, Aleph Book Company, ₹599

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 11:48:17 AM |

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