Finding Miracles

( 14 )

Overview

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 ...
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Finding Miracles

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Overview

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Fifteen-year-old Milly Kaufman is an average American teenager until Pablo, a new student at her school, inspires her to search for her birth family in his native country.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Milly Kaufman thinks she's an ordinary Vermont teenager, but that changes when the new student arrives. Like Milly, Pablo is an immigrant from a country recovering from decades of brutal dictatorship and political corruption. As her friendship with Pablo grows, Milly realizes that she had never confronted her own origins. Courageously, she decides to journey back to a homeland she scarcely knows. An arresting novel from an award-winning novelist.
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
KLIATT
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780553494068
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/9/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 132,303
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.83 (w) x 6.85 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia  Alvarez
Julia Alvarez has written three other books for young readers, The Secret Footprints, a picture book; How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay, a middle-grade novel; and Before We Were Free, a young adult novel. She is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City during her Dominican parents' "first and failed" stay in the United States. While she was still an infant, the family returned to the Dominican Republic -- where her father, a vehement opponent of the Trujillo dictatorship, resumed his activities with the resistance. In 1960, in fear for their safety, the Alvarezes fled the country, settling once more in New York.

Alvarez has often said that the immigrant experience was the crucible that turned her into a writer. Her struggle with the nuances of the English language made her deeply conscious of the power of words, and exposure to books and reading sharpened both her imagination and her storytelling skills. She graduated summa cum laude from Middlebury College in 1971, received her M.F.A. from Syracuse University, and spent the next two decades in the education field, traveling around the country with the poetry-in-the-schools program and teaching English and Creative Writing to elementary, high school, and college students.

Alvarez's verse began to appear in literary magazines and anthologies, and in 1984, she published her first poetry collection, Homecoming. She had less success marketing her novel -- a semiautobiographical story that traced the painful assimilation of a Dominican family over a period of more than 30 eventful years. A series of 15 interconnected stories that unfold in reverse chronological order, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents addresses, head-on, the obstacles and challenges immigrants face in adapting to life in a new country.

It took some time for "ethnic" literature to gain enough of a foothold in the literary establishment for Alvarez's agent, a tireless champion of minority authors, to find a publisher. But when the novel was released in 1991, it received strongly positive reviews. And so, at the tender age of 41, Alvarez became a star. Three years later, she proved herself more than a "one-hit wonder," when her second novel, In the Time of Butterflies was nominated for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. Since then, she has made her name as a writer of remarkable versatility, juggling novels, poetry, children's books, and nonfiction with equal grace and aplomb. She lives in Vermont, where she serves as a writer in residence at her alma mater, Middlebury College. In addition, she and her husband run a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic that hosts a school to teach the local farmers and their families how to read and write.

Good To Know

From 1975 until 1978, Alvarez served as Poet-in-the-Schools in Kentucky, Delaware, and North Carolina.

She has held positions as a professor of creative writing and English at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts (1979-81), the University of Vermont (1981-83), and the University of Illinois (1985-88).

In 1984, Alvarez was the Jenny McKean Moore Visiting Writer at George Washington University. Currently, she is a professor of English at Middlebury College.

She and her husband run a coffee farm, Alta Gracia, in the Dominican Republic.

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    1. Hometown:
      Middlebury, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 27, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Reading Group Guide

1. In the novel’s opening chapter, Milly claims to be allergic to herself. What does she mean by this? Give some examples of moments when this “allergic reaction” occurs and explain what causes it?

2. Early in the novel, Milly confesses, “The point is: I totally pass as 100 percent American, and as un-PC as this is going to sound, I’m really glad” (p. 12). Why do you think Milly is so afraid to reveal that she’s adopted? How would you react to such news from a classmate?

3. When the Kaufmans go to the Bolivars’ apartment to watch the election results, Pablo is noticeably troubled, leading Milly to comment that she’s never seen anyone her own age so distraught over politics. The most important election in her life so far is the one for Ralston’s student government. Do you feel similarly shielded from political worries? Do you follow elections, locally, nationally, or globally? Are there political issues that affect your daily life?

4. In chapter five, Happy reveals to Milly that she, too, is a kind of orphan. What does she mean by this? Is Happy making a valid comparison?

5. During her stay with the Bolivars in her birth country, Milly gets a vision of family life–especially in terms of extended family–that is very different from her own. The easy affection of Tía Dulce, for example, is a far cry from Happy’s reserve. What other differences do you notice in the family routines and attitudes?

6. Why is Kate so negative about Milly’s trip with the Bolivars? Are her concerns justified?

7. The importance of names–both the ones we are given and the ones we choose–is central to the novel. How is this theme reflected in the stories of both Milly and Happy?

8. At one point, Pablo tells Milly, “Some say let us forget the past and build the future. Others say we cannot build the future without knowing the past.” Kate– and, to some degree, Milly’s parents–seems to advocate the former strategy, but Milly isn’t convinced. What do you think? Is it always better to know the historical truth, or does a focus on the past keep us from moving forward? Does Milly find what she’s looking for in her birth country? Is it worth the worry it causes her family in Vermont?

9. What do you think Doña Gloria means when she tells Milly and Pablo that she’s counting on them to “bring more light”? Do they fulfill this request? How?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book

    Read for school prject and loved it! Hope I can read it again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Way better than I expected

    I read this book for school & actually enjoyed it. It's realistic fiction with a hint of historical fiction. Had a good balance of being not just another troubled teen story. I might read it again because it's so fun & relatable. Great story for a teen!
    SPOILER: Milly & Pablo become a couple!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Amazing Book The book (Finding Miracles) that I read was an exce

    Amazing Book
    The book (Finding Miracles) that I read was an excellent book, however there were two problems. One of my problems was that in one of the first few chapters the main character talks to her friend about being on her period which was a very uncomfortable subject seeing that I am a young man. I would rather she just went in the restroom to hide. My second problem was that scene the book did not belong to me; I did not really finish reading it. I only had around 52 minutes to read this book every day whenever my class was told to. Even thought I did not finish read I still found the book very interesting and if I could I would finish reading it. In other words I would buy/read this book because it is an excellent novel. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    NOT GREAT

    I had to read this book for school, and it is not at all a book i would have read by choice.

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  • Posted July 7, 2011

    Sucks

    Worst book i ever had to read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2009

    Great Book!

    Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez is a young adult novel based on the life of an average teenage girl, Milly Kaufman. Milly lives in the small town of Ralston, Vermont, with her mom, dad, younger brother, and older sister. Milly¿s mom is a therapist and is always there for her, but her dad is a worry-wart. Nate, her little brother, is a hockey player, and her older sister, Kate, is a typical teenager. One day at Milly¿s high school, a new boy arrives, Pablo Bolívar. Milly is interested and intrigued by Pablo, and he happens to be the same about her. One day at the lunch table, Milly¿s best friend, Em, invites Pablo over to join them and a bunch of other friends. Milly is forced to confront her past, when Pablo asks her where she is from. ¿De dónde eres? This question immediately nerves her, and she avoids it. Milly was orphaned as a baby in a tiny Spanish country during a time of war. Two members of the Peace Corps adopted her and made a life for her in the States. Only she, her family, and her best friend know about her adoption. Milly eventually tells Pablo her secret, which made her feel better that he knew. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to join the Bolívar family on a trip to their home country. The Bolívars are refugees had to leave their country because of a horrible dictatorship. Milly wants to figure out who her birth parents were--because sometimes her life is a mystery to her. Milagros was her birth name, meaning ¿miracles,¿ and on this trip, Milly recieves many miracles. <BR/><BR/>I liked this book a lot because it¿s about a girl my age so I can relate to her a little. Julia Alvarez did an great job on this book, the descriptions were very realistic. The story was interesting and did not lose my attention as I was reading it, so, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good young adult book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2008

    Finding her Past

    Finding miracles by Julia Alvarez is a great coming of age book to read. the story starts of With a girl named Milly ,a 15 year old girl that lives in Vermont and was adopted at a young age. She knowingly tries to hide her past from her Friends until a new and Differnt Boy named Pablo arrives at the school. Pablo Embrasses is backround and cluture and encourages Milly to do the same. In Doing so Milly takes a Journey back to her native country to discover her past. This book Teaches people from all differnt types of backgrounds to embrace them and to never be ashamed of where you come from. I recommend this book to any one who enjoys real life situations and happy endings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2005

    An amazing story

    Its a story about discovering who you are and embracing your culture. Plus there's a boy involved. I love books that leave a lasting impression, (in a good way) and this one most deffinatley does!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2005

    It's awsome!

    I usually dont read that much i just grab a book and pretend im reading it in school but this book caught my attention. i dont like the books that have no drama or no swearing in them it bores me and this book was wonderfull for teens, beacuse you might be able to relate to her. Its really FUNNY!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2004

    A Teen Explores Her Adoption

    Because she is adopted, fifteen-year-old Milly sometimes feels separate from her well-meaning parents, her slightly older sister, and her all-boy younger brother. However, she does not want to think about her adoption, and she certainly does not want anyone at her Vermont high school to know except her best friend. This changes when Pablo, a refugee from Milly¿s unnamed country of birth, becomes a student in her school. Resenting Pablo at first, Milly and the new boy become friends, and Milly begins to confront her adoption and her feelings about it. Later, Milly decides she is ready to visit the Latin American island where she was born, which recently held its first free elections. She accepts an invitation to join Pablo and his family on their homecoming trip. Embraced by Pablo¿s large extended family, Milly discovers an island rich with beauty and deep scars left by the recent dictatorship. As she and Pablo fall in love, Milly looks for clues to her past. Finally, in a mountain town, she meets an old woman who provides clues to Milly¿s past and future. ***** Julia Alvarez writes this well-told story in her usual descriptive, flowing prose. Milly is a well-developed character, one whose humor, self-doubt, changing emotions, and inner wisdom make her a believable fifteen-year-old. In general, the secondary characters are interesting and believable. Once he returns to his native country, Pablo seems too good to be true, but readers still can enjoy the couple¿s growing romance. The author divides the book into two parts, and occasionally the two parts do not blend completely. For example, Milly has a humorous narrative voice in part one; her voice is far more serious in part two. The author may be trying to show that Milly is growing up, but one misses her humor. Despite a few weaknesses, Alvarez¿s novel is an emotionally satisfying read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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