In March 2023, a beautiful debut about a young girl grieving her father’s death and her ability to play music, will be released. This story of hope and harmony will articulate both grief and healing as it follows a musical journey that becomes a metaphor. There’s a timeless appeal to the emotions surrounding family, friendship, and love, which Miracle will be focusing on. Drawn from the author’s personal experience as a first generation Chinese American, the vulnerability and emotionally resonant prose in this middle-grade fiction is clear. No wonder Booklist praises it as “a moving, musical interlude on grief”. Needless to say, it’s a pleasure to have Karen S. Chow, author of Miracle, elaborate on the personal story that has inspired and fuelled her debut novel, especially how it intertwines grief and hope. To view more such posts by debut authors of this year, make sure to check out this collaboration, Debut Dialogues, spanning over Winter 2023. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
The Tune of Grief: Karen S. Chow, author of Miracle, on writing a young character who loses her beloved father and her ability to play the violin —his favourite instrument.
My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was in college, and I never expected my debut novel, Miracle, to be about him. Miracle is a part-fictionalized, part-based-on-real-life MG contemporary story about a young Asian-American girl, Amie Cheung, who loves her father so much she does everything he likes: reads his favorite books, listens to his favorite music, and plays his favorite instrument. When he passes away, Amie is very lost and loses her ability to play the violin. It takes patience, help from her friends, and reconciling with her mom to make her realize that life without her father is still amazing. Once she’s able to realize that, her music ability comes back—and that’s the miracle.
Grief is a hard subject, especially hard since the pandemic. There have been so many tragedies, so much heartache. A lot of fear, anger, and sadness surrounding it. We had to muddle through. Similarly, my family muddled through the passing of my dad.
After my dad was gone, my family spread out. My mom relied on me to be a father-figure for my little brother, who was thirteen years old at the time. My brother and I have a warped relationship because of it. As an adult, he moved away from home and didn’t share much about his life. My sister graduated college and moved to San Francisco, and later New York City. I ran off to get married (and divorced later on). My mom became more involved in her own activities.
Miracle by Karen S. Chow
When her father dies, Amie’s ability to play music dies, too. Nothing short of a miracle can bring back what she has lost.
Amie has spent her life perfectly in tune with Ba-ba, her father—she plays the violin, his favorite instrument; she loves all his favorite foods, even if he can’t eat them during his cancer treatments; and they talk about books, including Amie’s favorite series, Harry Potter. But after Ba-ba dies, Amie feels distanced from everyone close to her, like her mother and her best friends, Rio and Bella. More devastating still, she loses her ability to play the violin—the notes that used to flow freely are now stilted and sharp. Will Amie ever find her way back to the music she once loved?
With hope and harmony lighting the way—and with help from the people who care about her most—Amie must find the strength to carry on. In the end, she’ll learn that healing, while painful, can be its own miraculous song.
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We were unmoored, dealing with grief in our own ways, like Amie and her mom in the book. Amie’s mom purges the house of any reminders of Amie’s dad, while Amie holds onto every single bit. As she tries to navigate her new normal, Amie makes mistakes and feels conflicted and ultimately breaks down. But, life is not hopeless. Amie eventually goes to therapy and gets help—which I encourage you to do if you’re grieving. Her friends support her, and her mom is her strength, even though she doesn’t see it. It takes time for Amie to realize she has people who have been there for her. Her future isn’t over. It’s just different than what she pictured.
It took a while for my family to settle into our lives without our dad. But over the years, I reconnected with my sister, and we’re closer than ever. My mom is my rock and has helped me endlessly. My brother is still a work in progress, but he opens up occasionally. We had our own paths, but we found each other again.
Writing about grief is supposed to be difficult, but I’ll be honest, this story flowed out of me quickly. It was ready to be told. All the love I have for my dad and watching his struggle with cancer, it wanted to be on the page. However, it took thirteen years—and more, during rewrites and editing—to put the words together that life is still okay after the passing of a loved one. It’ll look different, but no matter the agony or misery or hardship, there is always hope in the after.
Karen S. Chow
Karen S. Chow started writing novels as a college sophomore at Arizona State University, while earning a degree in electrical engineering. Now, she is an engineer by day and middle-grade novelist by night. Her debut, MIRACLE (Christy Ottaviano Books/Little, Brown BYR), releases March 28, 2023. She invites you to visit her at kchowrites.com. You can also find her on Twitter @kchowwrites and on Instagram @kchowwrites!
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Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the guest writer’s comments and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.