E ARC provided by Netgalley.com
Miriam Brockman is not thrilled when her family moves from New York City to a small town in upstate New York to run the Jewell Motor Inn. Since her father lost his job, the family thinks it is a good idea. There are some things that are interesting about the experience, like living in two adjoining motel rooms and having her Uncle Mordy spend the summer with them fixing the place up, but Miriam misses her friends. There are also so few Jewish people in town that the family would have to travel twenty minutes away for a congregation. Miriam manages to make friends with Kate, whose grandmother runs the diner next door, and even helps peel the grapes for the famous pie at the diner. She also enjoys helping out the one maid, Maria, who is worried that if business doesn't improve, she may be out of a job. Even though the Brockmans are making huge strides in fixing up the outdated business, there are still very few customers. When she and Kate are fooling around at the local abandoned drive in, they talk about how some communities had a lot of tourism when a picture of the Virgin Mary appeared-- it's not that hard to take a couple of swift knife strokes to the screen to get a reasonable apparition of their own. And it works... soon, the hotel is booked solid, the diner is doing well, and the Brockmans might be able to survive after all. Miriam feels somewhat guilty when she meets a boy her age, Anton, whose mother has brought him some distance to perhaps be cured. Anton is fairly comfortable with his disability, and doubts that the apparition will have any effect, but Miriam is bothered by the fact that many people do have faith in the fake image. There is also an incident where they hotel sign that Miriam has just repainted has a slur against Jews painted on it. Will Miriam and Kate come clean, and if they do, will the motel and diner survive?
Strengths: Summer vacation, kids working, a new residence that isn't haunted-- I love all of these things! The best part is that although Miriam isn't the biggest fan of moving and leaving her friends, she doesn't complain. She rolls up her sleeves and helps out with making beds, cleaning, and doing things to help her family and not add to her parents' burden. I also liked the bits of Jewish culture, including Uncle Mordy, who keeps kosher and won't eat in the diner, and also won't pursue a relationship with Maria because she is Catholic. The fact that the girls manufactured the picture of the Virgin Mary and let the ruse go on longer than it should have was interesting; on the one hand, it benefits their families and doesn't really hurt anyone, but on the other, it's lying. Since I file all religions under fiction, I was okay with this-- the girls have just added one more fictional story to a canon of fictional stories.
Weaknesses: This isn't currently available from Follett, which is disappointing! Also, I would have like the sign damage to have been followed up more completely.
What I really think: There have been a number of books with families running motels and hotels recently, including Swinarski's What Happens Next, Hurwitz's Hello from Renn Lake, Grabenstein's Welcome to Wonderland series, and I will buy this if I can get a copy.