by Rachel K. Burke
Intelligent and fiercely independent, sixteen-year-old Mia Marchette has never had a childhood. After her father’s disappearance when she was six, she has alone borne the burden of her mother’s bipolar disorder.
When her mother is institutionalized after a failed suicide attempt, Mia is abruptly forced to live with the estranged father she has not known for ten years. She is shocked to discover that he has created a new, picture-perfect life for himself, and is now living with a stepmother and a half-sister Mia never knew she had. Together, Mia and her new family must face the bitterness, mistakes, and long-hidden secrets that threaten to destroy their precarious happiness.
Finding Mia follows Mia’s journey as she searches to find the unanswered questions from her past, leading to her own self-discovery.
Ultimately, this is a story of confronting pain and finding freedom, of letting go and learning to search for love in unexpected places.
I was eight years old when I first realized my mother was different from other parents. It wasn’t because of anything specific she did, more so the things she didn’t do – the little things you failed to notice until they all came together, like scattered pieces that made up the puzzle of your life. While other kids would light up about a field trip or a summer vacation, my happiness was based on what was waiting for me at end of the day.
My mother has always been beautiful, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother. She’s one of those women that everyone watches when she walks into a room, ice-blue eyes, hair as light as new snow. The difference is that I can always tell when something inside her has changed. The shape of her smile shifts ever so slightly, just enough to remind me of how things once were, the possibility of small miracles.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when my mother was truly happy, when you could see it warm her from the inside out. I remember being four years old, sitting on the grass in our backyard, my father’s arm draped across her waist, as she taught me to sing “It’s a Small World” in French. I can still taste the way the foreign words rolled off my tongue, see the way they looked at each other. The love that once existed.
For some, the word “family” is a relative term, but for me, it’s always been measured in days. Most days she’s unreachable, but when she finds her way back to the surface, it’s like a poem you want to freeze, reread until the page blurs, bottle up and live in it forever. A smile that descends into the darkness, reappears when you’re not watching. Except that I’m always watching. Watching and waiting for the next small miracle. Sometimes I feel as if it’s all I ever do.
Having a family member who suffered from Bipolar Disorder, I was a bit undecided at first as to whether I wanted to read Finding Mia. I worried about the angle that the storyline would take and if it would hit too close to home for me. But in the end I decided to go with it and reasoned that if the story was too hard to read I could pull up stumps and call it a day. But this was so much more than a story about a person with Bipolar. While the constant of the Bipolar is there, Finding Mia focused much more on the impact that the illness has on the family.
Mia Marchette has had to grow up fast. Without a father, because he left when Mia was little and a mother who because of her illness struggles to function in a normal capacity on a daily basis. Arriving home from school one afternoon, Mia finds her mother unconscious after an overdose. Her mother is placed in a facility to get help for her illness and Mia is told that she will be going to live with her father Keith. A father that she has had no contact with and who she finds has created a whole new life for himself which includes a new wife Suzanne and a daughter.
Mia is filled with so many different emotions as she struggles to come to terms with the changes in her life and the impact that those changes are having. She has always wanted a normal family life with rules and expectations, but when she finally has them she completely rebels against them.
I can’t say that I was immediately in love with the characters. At first I struggled with why Keith had left his family. Unless you have lived with someone who has a mental illness it’s very hard to understand how truly difficult it can be, so it was more why he left Mia and had no contact with her. I felt that Suzanne was very gung- ho in her approach to Mia and I leaned more with Keith and his softer approach. However over the course of the book I found that they had all wormed their way into my heart, especially Suzanne. And that is thanks to the wonderful writing of Rachel K. Burke and the insights into the thoughts of Keith, his wife Suzanne and for me, the journal entries written by Mia.
Finding Mia is not just a story of mental illness and its impact. It’s a story of friendship, guilt, forgiveness, addiction, love and the surprises that can come your way just by opening your heart!! A truly wonderful story!!
About the Author
Rachel K. Burke discovered she wanted to be a writer at the age of ten, when her love of R. L. Stine murder mystery novels inspired her to start writing her own.
In 2008, Rachel combined her love of writing and music and began freelancing for a music column in Worcester Magazine, where she interviewed local city artists as well as mainstream artists such as Tegan and Sara and Buckcherry.
After graduating from Bridgewater University in 2011, Rachel released her first novel, Sound Bites: A Rock & Roll Love Story, which was ranked a 2012 Amazon Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in the Girls & Women genre.
Rachel’s second novel, Finding Mia, was also ranked a 2013 Amazon Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in the Women’s Fiction and Literary Fiction genres.
Rachel currently resides in Santa Monica, CA and is working on her third novel, Love Bites, Book 2 in the Sound Bites series.