Carnival time in Texas means something entirely different than where I’m from in New Orleans. Instead of the Mardi Gras floats and beads that come with the New Orleans celebration, one might instead find magicians and Ferris Wheels. Miraculum takes us into this time period of 1920s Southern life through multiple lenses. The period is well captured by author Steph Post as she highlights some of the struggles of growing up with a single parent amid The Starlight Miraculum Carnival.
Post dives into the unusual love tale centered around a snake charmer named Ruby. Her father owns the carnival where she lives and also fills the role of Ruby’s sole caretaker. Miraculum is full of unexplained mysteries and voodoo that surround the carnival grounds, which the story’s plot uses to its advantage in making the reader anxious. Post has a way of holding the reader in constant suspense during passages, and it feels like she’s “winking” at you some of the time.
A great example of this occurs when the questionably-sane character of Daniel is introduced. Ruby feels like the audience’s surrogate in this story, playing the child reconnecting with her father after they had a falling out when she was younger. Ruby also is the main lens through which the reader sees the events of the plot fall into place. She is young and unsure about many things in life, such as romance and what she wants to do with her future. Ruby’s character feels she could be a portrayal of Post’s younger self, as many of the problems plaguing Ruby are still common for young women in society today.
Southern culture is paid forward well with locations featuring real-life landmarks throughout southern Texas and Louisiana, such as Pontillo and the swamplands of Bayou Lafourche. Post uses these locations to depict an eery, uneasy feeling. After Daniel is introduced, several tragedies begin to occur around the carnival. Post’s dark, rural landscape instills fear and uncertainty in the mind of the reader, and it works brilliantly.
Ruby witnesses these tragedies and must assume that Daniel is behind the crimes. Despite this, Daniel appears charming and is not considered dangerous at all by the other carnival members. Miraculum continues on with the mystery of Daniel and his intentions in a creative, thrilling conclusion that is intricately set up starting from the first few pages.
Post’s fourth novel is a thriller in the vein of magical realism suitable for anyone who enjoys reading on the edge of their seat.
Miraculum is one of our 10 Books Picks for the New Year.