A Light, Happy Read


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I just finished "The Miracle of the Bells" by Russell Janney. There was a film by the same name based on this book made in the late 1940s, which I haven't seen, so I can't compare the two. The book is about a film promoter who brings the body of an actress back to her old hometown to be buried. He loved her but never told her. The things that happen in the town form the basis for most of the story, although his relationship with the actress is also told in flashback.

Although there's some pathos in the book (the heroine dies, after all!), it's mostly a happy, happy story about a man with a can-do attitude who refuses to accept defeat, and how his attitude becomes infectious, and how people, upon discovering their own efficacy, turn from mean people into nice people.

There are a few supernatural elements in the book, dealing with some of the characters having visions of dead people telling them things. If you really can't deal with that kind of thing, this book's not for you. If you can get over that, you'll have some fun. Other "miracles", so-called, in the book, have natural explanations.

The fictional "Coaltown" in the book is a real place by the name of "Glen Lyon", geographically set exactly where Coaltown is set in the book. The church of St. Michael the Archangel, where much of the action occurs, was a real church in the town, and was razed in 2005. The church of St. Leo's is there, under the name of St. Adalbert's (which is the name the author gives to the Czech church; odd, since St. Adalbert is a Polish saint). The "Breaker", which in the last part of the book is speculated as something that might be there forever, closed around 1971 and was destroyed in a fire in 1974. If you decide to read the book, Google "Glen Lyon" for a street map of the place, and you'll see the few streets that make up this tiny town, including the cemeteries where much of the action takes place. If you pull up the satellite picture, you'll see the blank lot where St. Michael's used to stand, right next to the real St. Adalbert's (St. Leo's in the book) at the corner of West Main Street and South Market Street. The Breaker used to stand where East Main and West Main divided.


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