Friday, August 20, 2010

Milagros, a Miracle of a Story

When I was at the LA conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Meg Medina, author of the middle grade novel, Milagros, Girl from Away.

Milagros means "miracle" in Spanish, and this is a story where the protagonist must make her own miracles. When the story opens, Milagros de le Torre lives on the island of Las Brisas in the Caribbean, an island so small it doesn't show on any map. People on Las Brisas are happy; life is abundant. Milagros's only sorrow is that her father left when she was an infant to become a pirate and has never been seen since.

Then one day, envious people of a neighboring island come during Carnival, and, hidden behind masks, attack all the villagers. Milagros's last sees her mother urgently telling her to flee, while she falls during their attempt to escape. Milagros drifts for days in a small boat. Rescued at first by her father, the pirate, she rejects a chance to join him in the pirate life and swims out to the boat again. After drifting northward, she is rescued again by fisherman from an island called Holly Pointe, off the coast of Maine. An artist and her family take Milagros in, and the story deepens.

Life outside the island of Holly Pointe is simply referred to as "away", and thus, Milagros becomes "the girl from away". Holly Pointe is cold and forbidding. The daughter of the artist who shelters Milagros is jealous and hostile. Unlike the islanders Milagros left behind, Holly Pointe residents are chilly and take a long time to know. Yet this new island is where life unfolds for Milagros and where she comes into her own after much inner struggle.

The writing is lyrical and mystical, bordering at times on the eerie. Imbedded in the narrative are wonderful bits of wisdom imparted by the elderly Mexican woman with whom Milagros becomes friends. In her heart, Milagros remembers her mother's way with plants and her mysterious relationship with stingrays. But it is her own determination to be true to herself that give Milagros the inner strength to meet the challenges of her new life.

This is a wonderful read for tweens and teens alike. The book is permeated with deep insight and understanding -- understanding of what it's like to be young and confronted with loss, and understanding of what it takes to overcome life's unexpected difficulties. One can only look forward to future novels from this gifted writer.

You can read more about Meg Medina and her books at:


Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks Elizabeth..for this wonderful review. Milagros, girl from away sounds different but definitely interesting.

Amy Brecount White said...

I just met Meg at a signing in PA and can't wait to read this! Thanks for the recommendation.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

You won't be disappointed. It's just a wonderful book. I plan to re-read it after a bit of time goes by.