Author Ashley Ream follows her debut novel, 2012’s Losing Clementine, with The 100 Year Miracle, a novel that asks the question: How far would you go to end your pain, even if there were terrible consequences?
Once every 100 years — for only six days — in Olloo’et Bay near Washington, the Artemia lucis set the waters aglow. The tiny sea creatures arouse the interest of a team of scientists, who flock to the bay to research this once-in-a-lifetime — and very brief — phenomenon. Included in the group is biologist Dr. Rachel Bell, who’s hoping the native folklore about the creatures’ miraculous pain-relief potential can end her lifetime of suffering.
“Although the Artemia lucis in the book is a product of my imagination, there are similar phenomenon all over the world,” Ream says in press materials. “Bioluminescence is relatively common in marine animals, including jellyfish and many deep sea animals. It’s also found in ocean bacteria. ...
“Around the San Juans themselves, the water will sometimes glow when oars are slapped against it. And of course, most people are familiar with fireflies.
“Similarly, some creatures can live in a dormant cyst state for decades. Cicadas are the most famous example,” Ream says.
Rachel goes rogue, hoping to gather and keep the sea creatures alive and decode their secrets in her lab. Along the way, she meets a divorced couple living in a home by the bay.
Harry, who is suffering from a progressive neurological disease, is sucked in by Rachel’s hope for a miracle. Blocking her quest is an Olloo’et Tribe member and fellow scientist, who doesn’t believe Rachel should be messing with nature.
Ream says she based Rachel on two molecular biologist friends, Dr. Ashley Wright and Dr. Cheryl Van Buskirk.
“When I started writing, I took both of them out for drinks, along with marine biologist Beth Lenz,” she says. “I laid out Rachel’s scenario and the conditions she would be working under and asked, ‘Is this possible?’ They looked at each other and said, ‘Absolutely.’ I said, ‘How?’
“All three of them ripped into the problem, going over possible experiments and results. Everything that makes Rachel authentic is because of their generosity.”
The 100 Year Miracle
- By Ashley Ream
- Flatiron Books, $26.99
- Audio: Macmillan Audio, $34.99; read by veteran narrator Xe Sands. It includes an interview with the author.