A young Haitian girl opens the door to unconditional love for an American couple.
When Albom (The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, 2018, etc.) became director of the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, he knew the children would make an impact on his life, but one toddler in particular, Chika, stole his heart. She was born just three days before the earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010. “It was tragedy on an island where tragedy is no stranger,” writes the author. When Chika arrived at the orphanage, she was only 3, but she quickly became a leader among the children. When she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, a condition the neurologist in Haiti said could not be treated there, Albom and his wife brought Chika into their Michigan home and sought out the best treatment they could find. When those treatments failed, they traveled for two years to other countries for experimental procedures, anything that would prolong Chika’s life. In addition to his own viewpoint, the author narrates the story by imagining what Chika was thinking and feeling. As Albom makes clear from the start, Chika did not survive her condition (she died in 2017 at age 7); his writing about this journey is unadorned, heartwarming, and rarely maudlin. He shares his joy at becoming a father to this vivacious child, his fears as he reintroduced Chika to her biological father, and the pain and sorrow he felt when she died. He marvels at the relationship Chika had with his wife and shares his amazement that Chika so readily connected with other adults. The takeaway from this simple, moving memoir is that love has no boundaries and should not be hindered by ethnicity, religion, education, or money.
A highly expressive, tender story about how “families are like pieces of art, they can be made from many materials.”