Prather’s Pick: A message about families
“Finding Chika: A Little Girl, An Earthquake, and the Making of a Family” written by Mitch Albom, is this week’s Prather’s Pick. It is a moving memoir of the time Mitch and his wife Janine spent with Chika, a Haitian orphan.
Albom operates the Have Faith Haiti Mission and Orphanage. That’s where the Alboms found Chika Jeune. She was born just three days before the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti. Chika’s mother died so she was admitted to the orphanage. That’s where she lived until she was five.
Chika started having trouble walking. Her face was drooped. At 5 years old she was diagnosed with a mass on her brain. Chika had diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a condition that debilitates with a survival rate of zero. There was nobody in Haiti who could help her so the Alboms brought Chika home to America.
Mitch and Janine were in their 50s with no children of their own. They were old enough to be grandparents, yet there they were with a little girl to care for. They spent two years trying to find a cure for Chika’s brain mass. They left no treatment possibilities unexplored.
At first Chika underwent radiation. The results were promising. Mitch and Janine took her to Disneyland and back to Haiti for Christmas. When the radiation didn’t work, they traveled to New York and even Germany where there were new treatment possibilities. But, Chika did not survive. She died when she was 7 years old.
This memoir is more than Chika’s story. It is a wonderful work about what it takes to make a family and about the joys of raising children. Much of it is written in conversation with Chika.
Eight months after she died, Chika appeared before Mitch. It was the morning of his father’s funeral when Mitch saw her standing beside him, holding the porch railing. When he said her name, she turned. Then she started visiting Mitch in his office, during the early mornings, his writing time.
“Tell me about when I came to America,” was one of the many stories she wanted to hear. The stories and Chika’s delightful childhood chatter make up the book. It’s wonderful; it’s surely a classic.
Mitch Albom is a nationally syndicated columnist, and he has written seven New York Times bestselling books, including “Tuesdays with Morrie,” another memoir that is considered a classic.
This week’s book is published by HarperCollins (2019). It costs $24.99 in hardcover. You can also find the book with new titles at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries. It’s a “must-read.”
Look for a preview and excerpt from “Finding Chika” in the October/November AARP Magazine.