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Miriam the Medium

In the tradition of Susan Isaacs comes a charming debut novel featuring a lovable phone psychic, whose talents will either save her family from financial ruin -- or ruin her family altogether.

What do you do when your husband's business is failing, your daughter is ashamed of you, and your faith in your own talents hits rock bottom? Miriam is a modern-day Long Island housewife, who just happens to be a professional phone psychic. But while she can heal broken hearts, mend relationships, and help others find new careers, her own life is in shambles.

It starts with the family business. Her husband, Rory, is working every spare minute to keep his business, Mirror Pharmacy, afloat, but no matter what cost-saving measures he takes, a profit seems farther and farther away. Using her gift, Miriam tries to channel to the heart of the problem, but Rory's patience with her "readings" has worn as thin as his cash flow. Then there is Miriam's teenage daughter, Cara, who cannot stand to be in the same room with her, much less listen to any psychically generated advice. Now involved with a particularly bad-news boyfriend, she's too in love to take Miriam's warnings seriously. Miriam struggles to maintain a positive outlook -- things are bad, but they can always be worse, goes her mantra. So when a persistent agent proclaims her talents remarkable and marketable, Miriam decides to take action. But will going public ruin her family's already questionable standing in their prim Long Island community? And will her trusted spirits -- her dear departed Dad and Russian grandmother, Bubbie -- remain faithful if she "sells out"? Miriam struggles to sort through her escalating troubles and trust her abilities in times of crisis, even as her visions are becoming too cloudy to interpret.

In a quirky tale full of humor and heartache, Rochelle Shapiro captures the universal desire to find one's true self, no matter the opinions of others. Smart and sassy, Miriam the Medium is the debut of a talented and imaginative author -- one who is able to conjure with words and spirit.

Reading Group Guide
1. There are times that Miriam feels that her own dead mother is speaking through her daughter, Cara, who looks so much like Miriam's mother. Did you ever have the eerie sensation that someone who passed over was communicating with you through someone else? Has this novel changed your ideas of the afterlife? What are your ideas? How does this book affect your belief or lack of belief in psychic phenomenon?
2. Throughout Miriam the Medium, different characters chafe against one another, in either an effort to forge their own identity -- or to escape the one they feel saddled with. Miriam goes against her Bubbie's teachings. Cara goes against Miriam's lessons about her gift. What is the cost to each character? Have you ever had major consequences for going against your family's traditions and mores?
3. Miriam's psychic gift is the catalyst for much of the action. Why do you think Shapiro gave Miriam the ability to tell everyone's fortunes, but not her own and her own family's?
4. Why do you think Shapiro set a novel about mediumship and identity in the wealthy modern-day suburb of Great Neck, New York? Does Miriam feel at home in her town? Why or why not? Does this change in the course of the novel? If so, how?
5. Shapiro weaves issues about Jewish identity -- and some of her characters' attempts to suppress it -- through the book. Rory is a child of Holocaust survivors, Miriam was the child of pogrom survivors. How do you think these events affected their attitudes toward life? What do you think Shapiro is trying to say about suppressing any kind of identity, be it religious or psychic?
6. Shapiro explores the different ways mothers -- and motherly figures -- relate to daughters, such as the relationships between Bubbie and Miriam, Miriam and her mother, and Miriam and her own daughter, Cara. By the end of the book, which mothers have connected with which daughters -- and why? What do you think Shapiro is saying about this most primal human bond?
7. Miriam the Medium is really about trusting yourself -- who you are, what your are capable of, and who you are meant to be. How does that theme weave through Miriam's life, Cara's? How does "trusting oneself" get distorted in Rory's life?