With Missing Mila, Finding Family, Margaret Ward has given us a particularly affecting adoption narrative that exceeds the genre to become something else, a narrative about the disappearance of children during the civil war in El Salvador, including the involvement of the United States at the highest levels. It is also a profoundly particular, and hence human, story about how two families, one Salvadoran, one in the United States, work through their understanding of a wrenching series of events, including political violence, death, adoption, and the loss of a child, and somehow come out the other side with an extraordinary measure of grace.

The world is full of adoption narratives. They tend to be sentimental, dwelling on falling in love with the child to be adopted, romanticizing the birth mother’s relinquishment or ignoring her altogether, and emphasizing the inevitability of the newly...

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