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Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family

Review

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family

New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom hits a home run with FINDING CHIKA. Subtitled “A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family,” it surely will join earlier successes with wide acclaim. TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, the biggest selling memoir of all time, chronicled weekday afternoons that Albom spent with his dear friend, a dying professor. This new memoir is the story of the child who would change his heart forever.

In 2010, the world news media covers the devastating earthquake that strikes Haiti, a Third World country dealing with extreme poverty. Estimates of the dead, not fully documented, range in the hundreds of thousands, more than those lost in the American Revolution and Gulf War combined. Albom hosts a Detroit radio show and interviews a pastor working with an orphanage in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Pastor Hearn fears that the charity has been destroyed and the children are dead.

Tugged by the unknown, Albom secures transport and flies a small group, with help from the American military, to the site. Mayhem is the word of the day at the orphanage. Local refugees swarm there for food, shelter or medical help, commingling with the children. Thankfully, the building is spared, but Albom is overwhelmed by the chaos --- until two little hands grasp his and lead him into their world.

"FINDING CHIKA may be Mitch Albom’s greatest work yet. It is his, hers and theirs, a love story told from a father’s deepest heart."

Following nine separate trips, days and months of fundraising, and organization of willing hands, Albom and his wife, Janine, agree to take on the orphanage in an official capacity of management. Monthly trips to Haiti become a way of life for them. The whats, whys and wherefores of this transition in his life are spelled out in the story he pens seven years later. In funneling energy into solutions for the plight of orphans, Albom finds a love deeper than he can imagine --- love from Chika.

FINDING CHIKA is written in the first person, with Albom talking to the child while he pecks away at his computer, telling their story. The chapters are titled with simple words --- You Us, Me --- and enclosed within five sections, followed by an epilogue. Albom includes powerful quotations from brilliant writers like A. A. Milne and words from a gravestone --- inspiration he finds for completion of his self-determined task.

Alternating with the history of when and why the toddler came to his orphanage and her joyous impact on the entire resident group there, “Mister Mitch,” as she calls him, is given encouragement from Chika to find solace for his pain on the keyboard. He has been won over by the little girl with the abundant energy and sunshine personality. He receives a call from his administrators in Haiti that Chika is not well; in fact, she is quite sick: “The child has a mass on her brain. We don’t know what it is. But whatever it is, there is no one in Haiti who can help her.”

The childless couple arranges for Chika to be brought to the United States for medical treatment. DIPG is the ultimate diagnosis, a rapidly growing brain tumor striking 300 youngsters between the ages of five and nine, and there is virtually a zero survival rate.

This book will bring tears to your eyes. But to know the child from the happy talk between her and her temporary guardian “parents” is a revelation of life at its most exuberant and most bitter. Chika talks to Albom in his workspace, compelling his deepest reflection. He gently recalls her toughness, leadership, stubbornness and hunger for learning. The Albom twosome quickly becomes a threesome. Nursery rhymes, songs, nighttime prayers, shopping trips and movies are now commonplace. Hospital visits, doctors, even a sojourn in Hamburg, Germany, for specialized tumor treatment are accepted as normal.

FINDING CHIKA may be Mitch Albom’s greatest work yet. It is his, hers and theirs, a love story told from a father’s deepest heart.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 20, 2019

Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family
by Mitch Albom

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062952390
  • ISBN-13: 9780062952394