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Book Review: "MIRACLE" by Karen Chow (Grief/Loss)

Review by Meg Eden Kuyatt


Hachette (Christy Ottaviano Books), Release Date March 28, 2023


After her father dies, Amie feels distanced from everyone close to her, like her mother and her best friends, Rio and Bella. More devastating still, she loses her ability to play the violin—the notes that used to flow freely are now stilted and sharp. Will Amie ever find her way back to the music she once loved?

With hope and harmony lighting the way—and with help from the people who care about her most—Amie must find the strength to carry on. In the end, she’ll learn that healing, while painful, can be its own miraculous song.


“Grief is the hardest emotion,” she said again. “We will carry it for eternity. But I know

we can bear it with grace.”



 

As someone who grew up in music, I enjoyed reading Miracle, by Karen S. Chow, on multiple levels. I love all the integration of musical terms as ways Amie describes her world, but also how they teach the reader about music organically. I love how each chapter has a musical concept that’s sort of a metaphor for the larger ideas of what’s going on in the narrative. Amie’s use of musical language is so poetic and a great example of voice, or the language of a protagonist's experience. It also really demonstrates how music is such an integral part of how Amie lives and experiences the world.


I love how her music conveys her emotional state, and that she struggles with the idea of being labelled as “fragile.” Even if I haven’t been in Amie’s shoes, I relate to falling apart, to trying to act like everything’s fine, and trying to be reasonable, but not being able to keep it up. Amie's grief isn't just over the loss of her father, but the loss of her music. As a creative person, I particularly resonate with her struggle to make music in her pain, and her journey to figure out how to make music again.


I love seeing that she succeeds, giving the powerful reminder that even if we are in a difficult season, we can "turn" and find our way back to our creativity.


Amie is a relatable, well-meaning character to follow. Her friends' and mother's struggles on how to connect with her in the middle of her grief was understandable, and I especially loved the tender nuance of the mom. While it can be hard for Amie to know how to relate to her, we see the mother's love shine through, even in her mistakes, and we get an incredibly beautiful and satisfying reconciliation scene with them. Of course, Ba-ba is such a lovable character so it’s so painful to read, knowing that he’s not going to make it to the end of the book. All the characters are so wholesome without forsaking authentic nuance.


I also love how Amie's view of therapy changes throughout the book. Like Amie, I once thought "Therapy sounded like I couldn’t help myself. That I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough or accepting enough to handle my life." But Amie comes to see the value of therapy, modeling getting help in a healthy way to readers.


Every element of this story embodies Ba-ba's phrase to "be hopeful." While the story starts with death, it ends with life. Miracle gives an intimate lens on Amie’s journey with grief and change and what it means to “get better” or “back to normal” when there is no normal to return to. It provides an incredible model for adults and kids alike on how to try to understand others that are different than you, to seek harmony, and to find hope even when things are more painful than you could ever imagine.


Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Hopeful. Highly recommended.



“It is not a weakness to have a helper, and it is not a weakness to admit you need one.”



 


Meg Eden Kuyatt is a 2020 Pitch Wars mentee, and teaches creative writing at Anne Arundel Community College. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature winning poetry collection “Drowning in the Floating World” (Press 53, 2020) and children’s novels, most recently “Good Different” (Scholastic, 2023). Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal and Instagram at @meden_author.

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