16-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out of hospitals in her battle against cancer. One day, sitting in her car in the hospital parking lot she comes across her old flamingo list – a bucket list created during summer camp with her friend Lily that includes such important life milestones as “kill my little sister’s dreams”, “lose my virginity at a keg party”, and “experiment with petty shoplifting”. Feeling like all hope is gone, Cam decides it’s time to speed up the process of checking things off her list (starting with some petty shoplifting). Her mother, on the other hand, has not given up hope and decides to pack up and move her daughters from Florida to the small town of Promise, Maine, where it is said that miracles happen. Cam is cynical and sarcastic and doesn’t believe in miracles, but when her health improves and she meets some of Promise, Maine’s finest, she learns to open up and live in the moment.
“She realized she’d be spending the rest of her short life making other people feel better about the prospect of losing her.” (p. 31)
That line breaks my heart. No teenager should have to come to this sort of realization. Cam is a solid protagonist. Even if she isn’t your favorite person, you’ll still find yourself caring for her and hoping that the streak of miracles in Promise, Maine don’t skip her over. Cam is intensely pessimistic, at least in the beginning, which would turn some off, but the girl does have a pretty valid excuse for said pessimism and at least she owns it. It’s interesting to see the change she goes through during her summer in Promise, Maine. Though the story is written in third person, audiobook reader Emma Galvin captures Cam’s tone and attitude perfectly. With such an emotional storyline, there is great potential for either author or reader to take things too far – tipping the scales towards the overdramatic – but there is none of that here. Wunder handles the emotional scenes and moments of self-reflection with great care and Galvin’s understated performance is believable and much appreciated.
The Probability of Miracles is an impressive debut with a whole lot of heart. For such a serious and sad subject matter, the book still manages to be light and fun while navigating the emotional rollercoaster of Cam’s summer in Promise, Maine. So while there may very well be tears along the way, Wunder gives Cam and the reader good reasons to stick around. Immensely touching, this book will stay with you long after the last pages.