I watch the Shabbat candles flicker on the counter. At home, this is my favorite time of the week. But here, the candles feel like two eyes watching me, like they can tell what I did.
Kate told me about confession. She says some Catholics go every week, but her family goes once a year, around Easter. You go into a special room, like a closet, which is separated from another little room where Father Donovan sits, so they can hear each other but not see each other. It’s supposed to be private and you don’t have to say your name, but Kate says it’s a little town and for sure he recognizes her voice.
I explained to her about Yom Kippur, when Jews fast and pray in synagogue all day, thinking about the bad things they did the past year and what they need to do to be a better person. We’re supposed to ask forgiveness from the person we hurt. We don’t confess to the rabbi, though.
I asked Kate if faking a Virgin Mary apparition is a sin you’d have to confess at confession.
“Yep,” she said. “But luckily, Easter is nine months away. ”

La description

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. But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Miriam and her new Catholic friend Kate decide to fake an apparition of the Virgin Mary to entice visitors to their small town. Their plan works almost too well, but with unexpected consequences…


  • Winner, Jean Little First-Novel Award 2021
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award — English Fiction 2021
  • Commended, Sydney Taylor Book Award — Honor 2021
  • Nominated, Forest of Reading — Silver Birch Award 2022
  • Commended, National Jewish Book Award Finalist — Middle Grade Literature 2020
  • Commended, A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year 2021


Miriam is a delight, both sarcastic and complex. … sensitive plot layers portray differences between types of Judaism, showing how people of different faiths, languages, ages, and backgrounds can have respectful and close relationships.

- Foreword Reviews

A leisurely paced, character-rich tale of family, religious faith, and the human need for the miraculous. Strongly recommended for middle grade collections.

- School Library Journal

With effortless mastery, Cohen weaves the opposing forces of innocence and corruption, right and wrong, love and hate. STARRED REVIEW

- Quill & Quire

Debut author Cohen displays a knack for storytelling that makes this a thoughtful, engrossing, funny read.

- Booklist

This summer-in-a-small-town novel, with a mischief-based premise and an old-fashioned feel, includes plenty of exploration of how Miriam and her family fit into the larger community.

- Horn Book

Miriam is an intelligent pre-teen with lots of worthy questions [and] the prose is easy to read.

- Association of Jewish Libraries

It’s the connections between the characters that really made this story come alive.

- CM Review of Materials

[A] simple story filled with memorable and sympathetic characters

- Canadian Children’s Book News

Filled with thoughtful, masterful writing, No Vacancy offers readers a wonderful cast of characters, a chance to consider what is right or wrong, to look at differences with tender care and concern, and to look at racism as it exists in society.

- Sal's Fiction Addiction Blog