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Miranda / John R. Little

Bad Moon Books / September 2008
Reviewed by: Vince A. Liaguno

With age regression being the plot device du jour in film these days (just consider the Oscar buzz surrounding The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), timing is everything. And for John R. Little’s brilliant new novella, Miranda, the timing couldn’t be better.

Michael Johnson awakens to a shock one day — the electric jolt of defibrillator paddles bringing him back to life at age 65. He quickly learns that he’s living his life in reverse, swimming against the tide of time. He gets younger, not older. He meets his beloved dog at the time of its death, watches it revive and grow younger and healthier. He begins his career at retirement and works backwards through the years. But there’s a catch: everything and everyone else is moving forward. It’s a lonely existence, heartbreaking as he becomes a stranger to those he starts out knowing intimately.

That all changes when he meets the titular character, a woman, who, like him, is a backtracker. Like trains passing in opposite directions on parallel tracks, Michael and Miranda watch as everything they do goes in reverse. Still, they move in tandem together against the backwards tide and life is happy for awhile. But while Michael finds contentment in his relationship with Miranda, living a life already lived, she is troubled by the predetermined nature of their existence. In her quest to exercise free will and break the binding chains of a fated existence, heartbreak ensues. Little takes readers on a speculative journey through one man’s life and makes them realize that beginnings are as much endings as endings are beginnings.

While skeptics might be apt to dismiss Miranda as a gimmick with its descending pagination and backwards title font, this 109-page novella packs quite an emotional wallop. Little’s prose is crisp and lean, avoiding the stylistic excesses the philosophical subject matter would inspire in lesser writers without sacrificing an ounce of poignancy. Not since Fran Friel’s gut-wrenching “Orange and Golden” from her stunning Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales collection has this reviewer been moved to actual tears.

Miranda is nothing short of a marvel in its simplicity. That Little can imbue his straightforward premise with such subtle complexity and insight into the human condition is one of the literary accomplishments of the year. That life begins with nothing and (depending upon one’s own spiritual beliefs) ends with nothing is telling; that it makes little difference in which direction that life is lived is where the story profoundly affects the reader and ingeniously jars with its overriding sense of melancholy. And while Little’s revelatory observations about the life cycle ultimately paints Miranda as a tragedy in its truest form, he skillfully shows us that it’s of little use or consequence worrying about how it all starts or how it’s all going to end. Instead, Little illustrates that a life well-lived is about filling in the middle with those wonderful bits of the human experience — the security of companions, the comfort of food and drink, the wonder of travel and exploration of the world around us.

Purchase Miranda by John R. Little.

Posted on Monday, December 29, 2008 at 08:18AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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