The Miraculous Hand


160 pages
ISBN 0-921556-15-2
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Marcia Sweet

Marcia Sweet is head of the Information/Reference Unit, Douglas Library,
Queen’s University.


The backdrop for most of these stories is the author’s preoccupation
with the effects of the Holocaust on the children and grandchildren of
its victims. In “Fifty Bullets,” the most successful story, a
student caught plagiarizing recalls the bravery and strength of his
grandfather, who died in a concentration camp. Against this heroic
event, the student’s reflections about the impact of his act on his
own future appear trivial, but they reflect the pain and frustration
children of the Holocaust feel: no matter how great their own losses,
they can never equal the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents.

The title story is a plodding and unauthentic account of the progress
of a young man who develops a bizarrely outsize hand. In “A Woman
Almost as Tall as Memory,” a man returns from a visit to Auschwitz
profoundly changed. The story provides unexpected insight into the
immensity of the problem of the Holocaust, and not just for Jews: “He
could write a competent book about Sonia. . . . But [how could he] write
anything that made sense about his journey to Auschwitz?”

A strong story captivates the reader with freshness of expression and
ideas, levels of meaning, internal consistency, imagination,
authenticity, good expression, and convincing characters. These stories
are mostly well written, imaginative, and original, but they are marred
in other important ways. The pieces exhibit the unfocused energy one
sees in hyperactive children. Steinfeld’s characters are almost all in
some way freaks, a device that allows the author to avoid the difficult
work of creating believable characters. Because the stories lack
internal consistency, the endings often seem contrived and flat. And
finally, in too many of the stories the tragic experience of European
Jews appears to be trivialized by the linking of situations that are not
comparable, and by an ironic writing style.


Steinfeld, J.J., “The Miraculous Hand,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,