Blaise Fortune, also known as Koumaïl, loves hearing the story of how he came to live with Gloria in the Republic of Georgia: Gloria was picking peaches in her father’s orchard when she heard a train derail. After running to the site of the accident, she found an injured woman who asked Gloria to take her baby. The woman, Gloria claims, was French, and the baby was Blaise.
When Blaise turns seven years old, the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides that she and Blaise must flee the political troubles and civil unrest in Georgia. The two make their way westward on foot, heading toward France, where Gloria says they will find safe haven. But what exactly is the truth about Blaise’s past?
Bits and pieces are revealed as he and Gloria endure a five-year journey across the Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life. During this time Blaise grows from a boy into an adolescent; but only later, as a young man, can he finally attempt to untangle his identity.
Bondoux’s heartbreaking tale of exile, sacrifice, hope, and survival is a story of ultimate love
I'm struggling with how to review and rate this novel for several reasons, mainly because I feel that I should never have read it. Don't get me wrong, it was a good read, it was just very hard to get through. I'm going to give it 3 stars as a middle-grade read for it's simplicity, age-appropriate language, and good plot description/execution, but as a young adult read it wouldn't have passed at all.
First off, this is definitely a middle-grade/young-YA novel which is a genre I don't particularily enjoy reading. If I had known this in the first place I probably wouldn't have read it. I found it to be very childish and juvenile at first, though in the end it made a lot of sense for Blaise to be so young a narrator in such terrifying conditions.I also felt unequipped to read this because I struggled with the history and non-fiction aspects of the novel. I know absolutely nothing about Georgia or the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot of the politics and cultural norms were lost on me (and probably many other YA readers). I wish Anne-Laure Bondoux had given a brief history at the start, though the maps definitely helped me keep track of where they were going.
As a novel, A Time of Miracles was structured well. Very few details were given at the start when Blaise's memories would have been blurry and grew into larger chapters as he aged. I liked how realistic his recollections were: some chapters were just for one day, while others covered several years as time slipped by. Since I had no idea that this was supposed to be about Blaise's childhood rather than adolescence I spent the first half of the story frustrated with the pace, wishing it would speed up to present. In the end everything made sense and I was appreciative of how many details were given about each stage in Blaise's life.
Favourite Quote: "In life nothing goes the way you want. That's the pure and simple truth. You're separated from the ones you want to love forever. You want peace, but there are only rebellions."
Recommended: The Breadwinner (Deborah Ellis), Girl of Kosovo (Alice Mead), The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
Laura (All the Word's a Page)