About the book

Margaret E. Ward tells a poignant and compelling story of this international adoption and the astonishing revelations that emerged when Nelson’s birth family finally relocated him in 1997.

Ward vividly recalls the upheaval that occurred when members of Nelson’s birth family contacted them and sought a reunion with the boy they knew as Roberto. She describes how their sense of family expanded to include Nelson’s Central American relatives, who helped her piece together the lives of her son’s birth parents and their clandestine activities as guerrillas in El Salvador’s civil war.

In particular, Ward develops an internal dialogue with Nelson’s deceased mother Mila, an elusive figure whose life and motivations she tries to understand.

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    Ana’s Miracle: A Family Blog (2007 to 2011)

    Starting in 2007 several members of the extended family started recording their thoughts and memories online for all to read. The blog features posts from Margaret’s adopted son, Nelson and his birth sister, Eva, but also has posts from Margaret, her son Derek , and other members of Nelson’s birth family, including his brother Ernesto, and his cousin Mireya.

    Identifying Nelson/Buscando A Roberto: Nelson ’s Documentary Film

    This is a documentary about just one young man, part of a group of nearly three hundred who have been identified after disappearing as children during the civil war in El Salvador. Through interviews with other disappeared and still searching families, he reveals the deep wounds still open a generation after one of the bloodiest armed conflicts of the cold war era.

    Asociación Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos

    A non-governmental grass-roots organization founded by Father Jon Cortina in 1994 and based in San Salvador that searches for children who disappeared during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). One of four human rights organizations involved in the search for Nelson/Roberto.

    "I have read many books about adoption, and have written one myself, and I can honestly say that this is one of the most eloquent testimonies I know."

    Book Overview

    Chapter One: Adoption

    Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May–June 1983

    Chapter Two: Rediscovery

    Massachusetts, August–December 1997

    Chapter Three: Reunion

    Heredia, Costa Rica, December 1997

    Chapter Four: Putting the Pieces Together

    The history of Nelson’s biological family 1952–1992

    Chapter Five: Imagining Mila

    New Hampshire, Summer 2007

    Chapter Six: The Disappeared Children of El Salvador

    What people are saying

    Reviews from around the web

    Erik Ching - Professor, Furman University


    The writing was a pleasure to read. … The book has a narrative drive that unfolds itself slowly and steadily, but shockingly and in a captivating manner. It’s most basic strength is the raw emotional power of the story and the tremendous coincidence of the particular Salvadoran family to whom the author found herself connected by virtue of the adoption.

    Ann Grantham


    Beneath the clearly written history of a far off Salvadoran civil war is the emotional account of a family who adopted a homeless child, only to learn 14 years later that he was being sought by his birth family. What follows is the coming to grips with this reality - with the voices of many involved individuals, resulting in a redefined sense of family love.

    Margot Tutun


    Honest, forthright book, very moving story, not whitewashed. Well written, meticulously documented, and filled with fascinating historical background material on Central American politics.

    Ellen Sarkisian


    Great book, love having it. I had originally read it in the library, but wanted a copy of my own.

    A Chicagoan


    This is a fascinating true story of parents who traced the family of their foreign-born adopted son and how so many lives became enriched in the process. A wonderful read.



    This is an articulate, sensitive and fascinating memoir of an international adoption in the early 1980’s. Ward’s account is heartfelt with the excitement and gratification of adopting a young Honduran boy, then subsequently learning how his early history was intertwined with the violence of civil war in Central America. She presents her individual family’s account then adds research about the tragic ’lost children’, the orphans of civil war in the region. The entire book is mesmerizing and touching. Highly recommend it!

    Kathy Halverson


    Highly recommend this very personal story of an American couple who thought they were adopting a two year old Honduras orphan. Fourteen years later they discover that their adopted son Nelson is really from El Salvador and that he is part of the thousands of children who disappeared during the Salvadoran Civil War. Set against the backdrop of this brutal conflict the books outlines with scholarly detail the journey of the adoptive and birth families who come together with much love to bond as one family. This is a book you will remember long after you have read the last page.



    Several months have passed since I read Missing Mila, Finding Family, and this compelling true story told by Margaret Ward remains in my mind. Parents quickly called to Honduras to meet their to-be-adopted son, mystery surrounding the boy’s previous life, the whirlwind of emotions unleashed by Nelson’s birth family relocating him in 1997, and the families coming together and forming strong bonds, all grasp the reader’s attention from cover to cover. Nelson’s deceased mother Mila’s elusive presence is central to the story, as is the backdrop of the Salvadoran Civil War, where Nelson’s birth parents were involved in clandestine activities as guerrillas. Beautifully written, carefully researched, heartwarming, and very highly recommended.

    Karen Hurst


    Margaret Ward has written an extraordinary book about her family’s international adoption. This true story is gripping and compelling. The author writes with scholarly accuracy and emotional clarity about her family’s experiences. She details the history of the El Salvador dictatorship and the subsequent revolution. This book describes the journey of learning about their adopted son’s family of origin and embracing them. Ward takes us on a remarkable journey of compassion, empathy and love.

    The pinnacle of the book is the author’s mental dialogue with her adopted son’s mother and her wrenching decision to become a revolutionary while she was a mother. The quality of the writing is superb and the lessons we take from this book are timeless and profound.

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    Margaret E. Ward

    Margaret E. Ward

    - Ph. D., D. Litt., h. c., Professor of German, Emerita

    Margaret taught at Wellesley College in Wellesley Massachusetts from 1971 to 2010. She graduated magna cum laude from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 1965 and did her graduate studies in German Languages and Literatures at Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana, including two years on fellowship at universities in Berlin and Paris. During her tenure at Wellesley, she held the rotating William R. Kenan, Jr. professorship from 1995 to 1997. A prize in her name is awarded each year to an outstanding senior major in Women’s and Gender Studies in recognition of her contribution to the establishment of that department.

    Professor Ward received NEH, Fulbright, and Mellon fellowships in support of her research and published on Bertolt Brecht, post-1945 political drama, and women’s biography. Her book, Fanny Lewald: Between Rebellion and Renunciation (2006), based on extensive archival research in the former East Germany, was the first English-language biography of this prolific 19th-century German novelist, essayist, and early advocate of women’s education and right to work.

    Work on Missing Mila, Finding Family, began in 2004-2005 with a research trip to Central America. The book incorporates personal interviews, journal entries, letters, poems, blog posts, and photos, peeling back the layers of an unusual international adoption and describing how two families have become one. The author relies on the work of historians, investigative journalists and sociologists, but writes as an adoptive mother.


    Prologue: Dalila’s Hammock
    05 Apr, 2012 Margaret E. Ward

    Prologue: Dalila’s Hammock

    Chapter One: Adoption
    06 Apr, 2012 Margaret E. Ward

    Chapter One: Adoption

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