Choosing Magic - A Memoir
by Karina Pacific

"That's what God does. He changes our plans for our good, for miracles."

Looking for the father her mother will tell her nothing about led the author of this memoir to find her own answers. Pacific's mother raised her alone in Mexico, with the help of family and friends. She and her mom moved to Los Angeles when Pacific was a teen, living with families her mom kept house for or distant relatives and their connections. After high school, the author found her own living arrangements, and a series of bad boyfriends, until she met Jerry, her husband. Through family life, Pacific discovered a new way to mother and to love her mother.

The final chapter on lessons the author has learned in life shows a successful recapitulation and application of previous chapters. Curiosity and gratitude are two attributes that stand out as the most important she's gained. As a single child, often alone or in someone else's care, Karina was free to explore her surroundings. This comes across in her spontaneous and uninhibited writing.

The narrative flows freely in chronological order, and the language is accessible. Moments of bilingual dialogue give a taste of how Pacific navigates language and culture. The focus is on relationships, with chapters devoted to people who took care of her or with whom she lived. Even if they were hard on her, like one woman who gave her chores she did not want to do, she came away with an appreciation for what she learned, contributing to the narrative's conciliatory tone. The chapter on the author's husband is less direct, using generalities such as "marriage is hard" instead of illustrating instances of that hardness as is done in other cases. Overall, though, this is an empowering memoir. Pacific's lessons, gleaned from careful attention to her experience, model a way anyone can do the same.

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