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.
9 thoughts on “Book Review: Mitch Albom’s Newest Book ‘Finding Chika’ Tells Heartfelt Story”
Hello Ed – first, thank you for following my blog. I was scrolling through some of your posts and had to read this one on Chika in its entirety. I have been listening to the Mitch Albom Show since I began working from home in 2011. Mitch spoke of Chika all the time and often shared info of her progress in her battle with the pediatric brain cancer that eventually took her life. He and Janine were profoundly affected by Chika’s presence in their lives as they never had children of their own. They have a Haitian orphan from the “Have Faith” orphanage living with them right now. I have not read the book, but he read many passages from the book on the air and I read the column he did about Chika in “The Free Press” … hard to have a dry eye when he speaks of her.
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Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy Mitch’s radio show, and I always grab his books as soon as I can. Finding Chika is truly special. Chika was truly special. One of those young souls that anyone would be blessed to have met. Mitch does so much good for Detroit and Haiti, I have to support him any time I can.
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I like his show too, especially some of his in-depth interviews. I like the interviews he is doing with various medical experts, like the one today to keep listeners apprised of info regarding COVID-19. I followed the saga of Chad Carr when his mom Tammy used to call in sometimes and I think that was even before Chika came into their lives. Mitch still supports the Chad Tough Foundation and does charitable work with Tammy as both kids passed away from the same malady.
I don’t think there is anyone else in the Detroit area who does so much good for the City of Detroit, both P.R. wise and with donations from his two stores and charitable events, etc. You are too young to remember Emily Gail and her “Say Nice Things About Detroit” campaign in the 70s. I worked downtown then and often went into the store which was fun and eclectic and a lunchtime gathering place for many, especially in the Summer. She was a beloved spokesperson for the city she loved.
Mitch continues to be a voice of reason and goodness in the world, especially when those types of people seem to be disappearing. I don’t know anything about Emily Gail, but I’ll certainly look her up. For too long Detroit has been looked down upon by the rest of the country. There are so many positive things happening there and I’m proud to be from the area. I grew up in Royal Oak, only a few miles from the Detroit border, and for most of my childhood it felt a world away. People only went down there when they had to. Now, it’s coming back. I have friends who have moved into the city, bought houses and rented apartments. I truly believe that Detroit’s best days, despite its remarkable past, can still be ahead.
Thanks so much for connecting! Really enjoyed this exchange.
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Sorry for responding so many hours later Ed. I used to go on WP in the mornings, but I am an avid walker and in the Summer months, I try to get out the door earlier to get more miles walked.
Mitch Albom is the voice of reason and greatness in the world and on that show as well. The show kind of runs away off course when he is not there. I can just picture him shaking his head about some of the current topics and callers we hear on the show.
I agree with you about Detroit’s comeback. When I see photos of how Campus Martius looks in the Summer or for “Detroit Aglow” I cannot believe how good it looks. I went to school at WSU and then worked downtown for many years. When I first worked downtown in the late 70s, the Downtown business district was a bustling and fun place. You never worried about going anywhere in/around the business district and there were fun ethnic festivals and free concerts in the lunch hour all the time, whether at Hart Plaza or on Washington Boulevard – people would take the trolley up/down Washington Boulevard where they had every type of free concert … something for everyone’s taste. People brought or bought their lunch and just sat there. And Hudson’s and Crowley’s was still there as well. Then things got raggedy and desolate – buildings became vacant or run down. The Penobscot Building and its demise surprises me as it was a jewel of the Downtown business district back in the day.
In Detroit’s 70s/early 80s heyday, along came Emily Gail with her campaign to “say nice things about Detroit” – I looked for a story that told about her:
It was a comprehensive story – evergreen though from 2015. Her father owned Gail’s Office Supply, her brother Max Gail was on the old “Barney Miller” TV series. She helped make Detroit fun. I follow a blog from someone who posts about unique places around the Detroit area. They don’t post too much and when I remember the blog name I’ll send it to you. You will enjoy reading it.
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This was really interesting to read. Love to get these stories about things I never got to experience. I’ll definitely read that article and please pass along that blog if you remember it!
Hi Ed – I searched for what sites I follow. This is the blog I mentioned. Don’t let the last post on Ohio fool you; they are usually all about the metro area. I enjoyed connecting with a fellow Michigander too, especially from this area. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Royal Oak. I don’t stray from Wayne County too much.
Oops!!! Here you are and glad you enjoyed that little history too. https://detroitdvotion.com