Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year- old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer.
But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create a Virgin Mary apparition at an abandoned drive-in theater. The Jewel instantly fills up with guests, including Anton, whose mother doesn’t seem to understand that using a wheelchair doesn’t mean he wants a miracle. Miriam must deal with feelings of guilt at having faked the apparition, and happiness at all the good things the new tourist site has brought to the community.
In the end, a shocking incident of anti-Semitism threatens her new home as well as the growing friendships within the Jewel’s diverse community. And unless Miriam finds a way to resolve all the hurt and fear, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and she will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build.
Spoiler alert: The girls’ plan to create the Virgin Mary apparition is not revealed until the halfway point of the novel. This spoiler will not be included on the jacket/cover of the book itself and shouldn’t be used in copy aimed directly at readers.
Tziporah (Tzippy) Cohen was born and raised in New York and spent eighteen years in Boston before landing in Canada, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, two cats and one dog.
Tzippy studied French and theater arts at Cornell University, where she was one of a handful of chimesmasters who performed concerts in the campus bell tower. Many years after graduating from Harvard Medical School, she received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She now splits her time between writing and working as an oncology/palliative care psychiatrist. Follow her on Twitter @tzippymfa.