Finding Miracles

Finding Miracles

3.7 14
by Julia Alvarez

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MILLY KAUFMAN IS an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont—until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo’s native country. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to undertake a courageous journey

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MILLY KAUFMAN IS an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont—until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo’s native country. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to undertake a courageous journey to her homeland and along the way discovers the story of her birth is intertwined with the story of a country recovering from a brutal history.

Beautifully written by reknowned author Julia Alvarez, Finding Miracles examines the emotional complexity of familial relationships and the miracles of everyday life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Milly Milagros Kaufman has two names and two identities. She is "Milly," a fairly normal ninth grader, who has lived in Vermont for most of her life with her adoptive parents, sister and younger brother. She is also "Milagros," the abandoned orphan who was rescued from a troubled (unnamed) Latin American country by two Peace Corps volunteers when she was a baby. Self-conscious about being adopted, Milly avoids discussing or even thinking about her past, until she meets Pablo, a refugee who comes from the same politically unstable country where Milly was born. As Milly listens to Pablo's stories of home, her curiosity is piqued along with a long-repressed desire to connect with her birthplace, and when the opportunity comes for her to visit it (with Pablo and his family), Milly jumps at the chance. In this tender tale, Alvarez (Before We Were Free) traces Milly's discovery of herself and a country that is at once beautiful and terrible. Despite the fact that Milly does not find answers to all of her questions, she does find acceptance and new purpose during her journey. The circumstances of Milly's trip and her relationship with Pablo feel somewhat contrived, yet her internal growth and changing attitudes progress authentically. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Milly Kaufman wants to believe that she is an ordinary teenager living in Vermont, groaning about English homework, and hanging out with her friends—except that she is allergic to herself, has a secret that only her best friend and family know, and cannot quit thinking about the new kid at school. Pablo is newly-arrived from another country and immediately throws Milly off when he asks her 'De donde eres?" With that question and her budding friendship with Pablo, Milly faces her insecurities and questions about being adopted and from a different country and culture than most of her peers. As she explores where she came from and what family truly means to her, Milly begins to find one small miracle after another. It is a triumphant story—deftly and sincerely told—about understanding and accepting who you are. Every teenager can relate to Milly's struggle to figure out who she is, while the experience of being adopted and from another culture opens windows to readers who may feel very different from Milly. The background story of one country's political upheaval and its affects on individuals provides appropriate connections to current events, making this novel an excellent accompaniment to the social studies classroom. 2004, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Ages 12 up.
—Leah Hanson
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2004: Alvarez has written about families enduring the tyranny in the Dominican Republic in several novels for adults and children, and her own family members are refugees from that terrible time. Finding Miracles is also about such a family, but this time living in the safety of Vermont. The parents had once been in the Peace Corps in a third-world country (unnamed in this story) and while there, as violence was beginning, they adopted Millie (Milagros, which means miracle) from an orphanage even though they had their own baby, Kate, the same age. Now it is 16 years later and Millie has worked hard to forget she is different from the others in her family; but when Pablo and his family come to their little town in Vermont as refugees from the same country where Millie was born, everything changes. Millie slowly faces the reality of her adoption and her heritage, all while her family is extremely supportive. The second part of the story takes place in the summer, after elections in Pablo's country promise peace: Millie accompanies Pablo and his family "home" where she has some dramatic encounters. First, she and Pablo fall in love. That's dramatic. Later, Millie journeys to the mountainous region where her biological parents must have lived, and through meeting an elderly woman who knows the village history, she finds out more about who her parents might have been and how they were caught up in the revolution. Alvarez is adept at developing characters that are believable and memorable. She also creates perfectly the reality of a small country slowly recovering from years of civil war and tyranny. KLIATT Codes:JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Random House, Laurel Leaf, 264p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-In spite of her family's openness, Milly Kaufman has never wanted to talk about her adoption. However, during ninth grade, Pablo Bol'var, a refugee from an unnamed Central American country, joins her class and immediately identifies her as someone who might have come from his family's hometown. Then, her grandmother attempts to make a will that differentiates between her and her siblings. While her mother and father's angry reaction makes the woman back down, their increasingly close relationship with Pablo's family makes it impossible for Milly to stop thinking about the parents who gave her up and the war-torn nation she came from. When that country's dictator is deposed in a democratic election, the Bol'vars go home to visit and invite Milly along. There she discovers a world quite different from her Vermont home, an extended family, a boyfriend in Pablo, and several possible sets of birth parents. She realizes, too, how much she loves her own family, and they join her for a grand reunion. The strength of this book lies in its description of adoption issues-Milly's feelings of abandonment and difference and her sister's fear that Milly's increased identification as Latina will destroy their close relationship. However, the plot is contrived to help Milly find her identity, and the characters never really come alive. The home country has been stripped of any identifying characteristics that might make the setting interesting. Still, readers interested in this subject will be pleased with the satisfying resolution.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ninth-grader Milly struggles to deny her adopted status in a loving family until she begins to understand her origins through a friendship with Pablo, a new arrival from her country of birth. Vague as to which Central American country this is, Alvarez universalizes the story of a young girl finding both the love and the confidence to search for her birth parents. Through her attachment to a new student at her school-whose instinctive recognition of her connection to him gradually blossoms into romance-Mildred Milagros grows into her bicultural skin. Grounded in the daily life of school friends at first, the author explores Milly's adoptive family and then, as she seeks her roots, moves all the action to where Milly was born. Rather than losing anything, Milly finds herself gaining as she explores her heritage-resulting in a rich portrayal of this brave and lucky young woman. Written with immediacy and charm, there is accessibility to the very American Milly's attitudes and ideas that will help readers accompany her on her journey of discovery and growth. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Product dimensions:
4.83(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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