Sometimes, the people we least expect to enter our lives have the greatest impact. It’s a lesson we learned in the international bestseller Tuesdays With Morrie, and it’s extremely evident in Mitch Albom’s newest book Finding Chika.
Finding Chika tells the true story of a little girl named Chika from the Haitian orphanage that Mitch Albom and his wife, Janine, run. Not long after Chika joined the group of children that the Alboms were caring for, she began showing signs of illness — drooping cheeks, an altered gait.
Following a doctor visit in Port-au-Prince, during which the physician told them that Chika had a brain tumor and that “there is no one in Haiti who can help her,” Mitch and Janine flew back to Detroit with Chika in hopes of finding a cure.
What ensues is a heartfelt story about a bubbly little girl, her fight for a future and the impact she had on the lives of a middle-aged couple who never had children of their own.
As with all good Mitch Albom books, this one hits hard from the first page. Albom is sitting at his office desk talking to Chika, who is lying on the floor playing. It’s told in present tense — this is something that is occurring now. And then, two paragraphs in, he hits you:
“But she doesn’t do that anymore. Chika died last spring.”
Mitch Albom is a very spiritual man. That is clear with his memoir Have a Little Faith, along with novels such as The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, For One More Day and The First Phone Call From Heaven.
Finding Chika is spliced with stories that jump through time, some present day and some of months or years past. Some of the most powerful, however, are when Albom describes scenes of him continuing to see and speak with Chika, even months after she passed away.
The way Albom describes Haiti, what the children — many of whom were survivors of the devastating earthquake — have to endure on a daily basis and the attitudes they carry through life, will simultaneously break your heart and uplift it.
This book felt like the culmination of something profound in Albom’s life. With references to his experiences with Morrie, stories of his own father, moving prose about the way Chika completely changed his life — as if he had a child of his own — the book goes beyond just telling a story. It was a monumental, overdue chapter in an incomplete life.
At the heart of this story are lessons that universally teach us all about the importance of precious life, the large impact of small acts and the power that love plays during life’s most trying times.
Being non-fiction, you presume that everything Albom includes in this book is true. But as only he can do, Finding Chika weaves a delicate balance between believable and unbelievable — in the best possible way.
Because it’s the extraordinary that keeps hope alive.