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Nothing Else But Miracles

Nothing Else But Miracles by Kate Albus


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Year Published

Book Review

The world is at war. Dory’s father wants to help with the fight, and he leaves his 17-year-old son, Fish, in charge while he’s gone. But when the landlord threatens to contact the city about three children living alone, Dory knows that it’s up to her to keep the three of them safe.

Plot Summary

Dory Byrne’s life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side is largely undisturbed by the Second World War—until her father decides to fight in it. He leaves Dory’s older brother, Fish, in charge of Dory and her younger brother, Pike. He tells them not to worry. They’ll receive money from him every month and the neighborhood will take care of them.

And sure enough, those neighbors do. Mrs. Schmidt at the bakery gives the kids pastries, and they eat at Mr. Caputo’s restaurant every Thursday evening. Dory and her brothers settle into a routine—though that routine often includes after-school punishment for Dory due to her energetic, tomboy ways. Dory can never turn down a good adventure.

Naturally, when Dory hears about the abandoned floors above Mr. Caputo’s restaurant that can only be accessed via a rusty dumbwaiter, she knows she must explore them. Her initial search of what used to be a whole hotel doesn’t turn up anything interesting.

But as it turns out, Dory and her brothers have bigger problems.

The sibling’s new landlord doesn’t take kindly to three loud children living alone in his building. He threatens to contact the city when he suspects that the children don’t have a guardian present.

To make matters worse, letters from Pop stop coming—and the money in the mayonnaise jar is running low. With the world coming down around them, Dory realizes she needs a plan to buy them some time. Maybe even a plan that involves a certain abandoned hotel. But deep down she knows they need more than a plan: They need a miracle.

Christian Beliefs

Heaven, church, and prayer are all mentioned.

Other Belief Systems

Dory asks the Statue of Liberty to bring her father back safely. She refers to the statue as the green goddess and asks her for help and signs occasionally. Vampires, werewolves, talismans, ghosts, seances, fortune tellers and magic are mentioned.

Authority Roles

Dory’s mom already passed away when the story opens. Dory’s father is loving and cares for his children, but also feels strongly about defending his country. He also enlists in part because it keeps Fish from enlisting. Fish is an attentive and responsible brother and does his best to take care of Dory and Pike. The neighbors all help look after the Byrnes children in various ways.

Profanity & Violence

War is mentioned throughout the book. Many kids’ fathers die or are injured while serving. Dory recounts how Mr. Bergen fell off a ladder and died. Dory repeatedly calls a kid in Pike’s class a drip. She also calls Pike a chucklehead. Smoking is mentioned.

A restaurant owner threatens to break a busboy’s neck. We hear about the old Disney movie Bambi (which was released during World War II), and we hear of Bambi’s mother dying. Murder, skinning cats, dead bodies, skeletons, hanging and vampires drinking blood are all mentioned. Dory imagines her brother being crushed by a train. She also wishes the landlord would get hit by a bus.

Sexual Content

Vincent, a boy in Dory’s class, has a crush on her. They go to a dance together, and one night he kisses her goodnight on the cheek. Fish holds hands with a girl named Irene and kisses her goodnight. A friend of Dory’s has a crush on Fish. A lady at the pool reads what is described as a streamy magazine.

Discussion Topics

During WWII, everyone had different responsibilities. What are some responsibilities you have? Do you think you do a good job handling your responsibilities?

People in the neighborhood looked out for Dory and her siblings. Read 1 John 3:17-18. How should the church treat each other?

Read Ephesians 4:32. Fish forgave Dory when she apologized for blaming him for Pop leaving. Do you need to ask for forgiveness for anything? Is there anyone you need to forgive?

Additional Comments

Albus paints a historic neighborhood in vivid color, focusing on a lovable family and a kind community. However, some of Dory’s interests and her tendency to lie to avoid trouble are shortfalls that could leave a bad impression on some readers.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Rachel Pfeiffer