Finding Miracles

Finding Miracles

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399555480
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/27/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 237,535
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

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.


Middlebury, Vermont

Date of Birth:

March 27, 1950

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Read an Excerpt

I took the class where we wrote stories with Ms. Morris. It was a three-week elective we could do on the side with regular English class. I did it because, to be truthful, I needed the extra credit. I've always had big problems with writing, which I'm not going to go into here. I knew my English grade, a C, was rapidly gyrating into a D. So I signed up.

"Stories are how we put the pieces of our lives together," Ms. Morris told us that first class. The way she talked, it was like stories could save your life. She was like a fanatic of literature, Ms. Morris. A lot of kids didn't like her for that. But secretly, I admired her. She had something worth giving her life to. Except for saving my mom and dad and sister, Kate, and brother, Nate, and best friend, Em, and a few other people from a burning building, I didn't have anything I could get that worked up about.

"Unless we put the pieces together we can get lost." Ms. Morris sighed like she'd been there, done that. Ms. Morris wasn't exactly old, maybe about Mom and Dad's age. But with her wild, frizzy hair and her scarves and eye makeup, she seemed younger. She lived an hour away near the state university and drove a red pickup. Occasionally, she referred to her partner, and sometimes to her kid, and once to an ex-husband. It was hard to put all the pieces of her life together.

Ms. Morris had this exercise where we had to jot down a couple of details about ourselves. Then we had to write a story based on them.

"Nothing big," she said to encourage us. "But they do have to be details that reveal something about your real self."

"Huh?" a bunch of the guys in the back row grunted.

"Here's what I mean," Ms. Morris said, reading from her list. She always tried out the exercises she gave us. "The morning I was born, I had to be turned around three times. Headed in the wrong direction, I guess." She looked up and grinned, sort of proud of herself. "Okay, here's another one. When I was twelve, an X-ray discovered that I had extra 'wing bones' on my shoulders." Ms. Morris spread her arms as if she was ready to fly away.

The huh guys all shot a glance at each other like here we are in the Twilight Zone.

"So, class, a detail or two to convey the real you! Actually, this is a great exercise in self-knowledge!"

We all groaned. It was kind of mandatory when a teacher was this kindergarten-perky about an assignment.

I sat at my desk wondering what to write. My hands were itching already with this rash I always get. Since nothing else was coming, I decided to jot that down. But what came out was, "I have this allergy where my hands get red and itchy when my real self's trying to tell me something." For my second detail, I found myself writing, "My parents have a box in their bedroom we've only opened once. I think of it as The Box."

Ms. Morris was coming down the rows, checking on our progress. "That's great!" she whispered when she read over my paper. Now my face, along with my hands, turned red. "You could tell an interesting story with just those two facts!"

"I made them up," I said a little too quickly. Oh yeah? All she had to do was look at my hands.

"Then write a story about a character for whom those two facts are true," Ms. Morris shot back. You couldn't get around her enthusiasm, no way.

I felt relieved when music sounded over the loudspeaker for the end of the period. That's a telling detail about our school. Instead of bells, we get music, anything from classical to "Rock-a-bye, Baby" to rock. I guess we're free spirits in Vermont. Bells are too uptight for us.

I ended up writing some lame, futuristic story about this girl alien whose memory chips are kept in a box that she can't open because her hands need rebooting. Some idea from a late-night movie Em and I had seen on TV at her house, where her parents have a dish and get all the weird channels.

I could tell Ms. Morris was disappointed that I didn't write about my own life. And though my hands kept breaking out in rashes, trying to tell me Milly! It's time!, I wasn't ready yet to open my box of secrets.

But sometimes, like with my allergies, it takes an outside irritant to make you react. My outside "irritant" showed up the next day in Mr. Barstow's class.

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?

Customer Reviews

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Finding Miracles 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read for school prject and loved it! Hope I can read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
edward0 More than 1 year ago
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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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ashy15 More than 1 year ago
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.

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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Vic Meiller More than 1 year ago
Worst book i ever had to read