Finding Miracles – Julia Alvarez

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Milly—Mildred Milagros Kaufman—doesn’t talk about the fact that she was adopted as an infant in a country ripped apart by war. She’s a teen in a small Vermont town and her sister Kate, kid brother Nate, mom and dad are all the family she wants. But when a new boy arrives at Ralston High, a refugee from that same country, Milly can’t avoid her own discomfort with the questions his presence raises.

Julia Alvarez has written a journey of discovery for Milly and all internationally adopted kids who don’t know their biological origins in Finding Miracles. It’s a young YA book, complex issues simplified enough for easy comprehension. Milly struggles to deal with Pablo, her own ambivalence about knowing more, and the shifting emotions in her family as they befriend Pablo’s family and hear the tragic stories of political murder and genocide. Wealthy Grandma Kaufman, the perpetually unhappy Happy, is a temperamental diva and Milly is sure she doesn’t consider her a real member of the family.

But people and things are not exactly what they seem in this story and the events and characters shift, reconfigure and expose both open hearts and uncomfortable truths. Milly discovers her own courageous voice, sets out to visit the land of her birth with Pablo’s family, and grows up, testing friendships and family ties as she comes to terms with the terrible history that determined her life–and the warm people who value and love her.

Finding Miracles tells about loss and a lot of it is ugly. But the adventure contains plenty of laughter, hope and affection, too. Cultures are contrasted and presented evenhandedly. Different generations find common ground. Happy finds her happiness at last and generously shares it with the rest of the family. Milly reclaims Milagros as her name as she makes her peace with being a child of two traditions and celebrates her own colorful life. And she falls in love, of course, with two countries and one boy and the miracles that make her exactly who she is.

Finding Miracles  Julia Alvarez | Alfred A. Knopf   2004

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