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Chapter 2 Resources

Sample Synopsis: Java Blues

Grieving the loss of the aunt who raised both her and her younger sister after their adoptive mother passed away, twenty-one-year-old PILAR MCELROY pours her energy into preparing to sell the coffee shop the aunt left her, the very shop Pilar had begged the woman to sell. Java Blues’ continual stream of devoted regulars mixed with curious visitors from all around the country never held an appeal for Pilar. She is determined to break free from the business she sees as a monotonous, dead-end commitment, and so she begins completing the “fix-it” tasks her real estate agent suggested. While cleaning out the office, she discovers a box containing dozens of letters from Guatemala, her home country, and the location of the majority of her adoptive parents’ mission work.

Assuming the letters, written in Spanish, are expressions of gratitude like the many her adoptive father continued to receive during the years of his mission work after Pilar’s adoptive mother passed away, she barely glances at them and puts the box aside. She doesn’t want to be reminded of her father’s continual abandonment in the name of humanitarian service. That all too familiar grief is constant and deep inside her. On a visit to their other aunt, Pilar and Eva discuss the upcoming memorial service then receive individual letters from their birth mother. Pilar’s is written in simple English and describes the circumstances of their adoption and gives her a piece of information she has been asking for most of her life, her mother’s name. She is thankful to have some answers and views the box she’d found with new urgency. She hires a translator to rewrite the pages into English. The box and the planning for the memorial service force long asked yet never answered questions to the surface of Pilar’s heart.

Wanting to resolve the pain once and for all, she convinces her younger sister to join her on an upcoming mission trip organized by their family’s church, the one that organized the same trips that their father continually prioritized over his children. Pilar’s plan is to stay in the country after the conclusion of the mission work and locate their birth mother. She believes the meeting will provide her answers while also bringing her closer to her sister with whom she has always felt an emotional distance. When finding their birth mother becomes increasingly difficult, Eva leaves. Pilar, saddened by her sister’s ambivalence, continues her search. Finally, she comes face to face with their birth mother. Her mother explains that she had a relationship with their adoptive father and that he is actually Pilar’s biological father. After Pilar was born, she married the man who became Eva’s father. He later died, leaving her homeless and desperate enough to give away the two girls she had no hope of caring for.

Shocked and recoiling from what feels like another betrayal, Pilar returns home to find the box of letters back from the translator. She reads a few, enough to know the pages are all from her biological mother, sent each year on the birth dates of her two children. Pilar is torn between the admittedly selfish need to keep the only parental connection she has to herself and the right action of sharing the letters with Eva. Unable to give her pain words, she stays silent about everything. Despite the family’s disapproval, she moves forward with unloading what she perceives to be a dead weight in her life, the coffee shop.

Weighted down, also, by the old pain of her father’s abandonment and newly tormented by the question of why he kept the truth of his paternity from her, Pilar leaves town to confront her father. She finds him where she expected, but he is not alone. He has a new wife, and they have a baby. Once she is able to talk to him alone, she challenges him about the hidden truth, outright lies, and insists he be the one to tell her sister everything he has been hiding. He agrees to think about the request but, as usual, makes no promises.

Back home, fueled by pain and confusion, she accepts that her father will never talk to Eva and decides to share their truth herself. Hoping her sister will see the gesture in the way she intends, mutual healing, she tells her sister all. Instead of appreciating the information, Eva receives it as additional wounding. She accuses Pilar of behaving just like their father–chasing dreams of what-ifs and trying to get her identity from other people’s perceptions.

Pilar is stunned by Eva’s observation but comes to accept the truth of it. For the first time she can remember, she finds comfort and happiness in her time at the shop. She begins to understand what her aunt had been telling her for years: welcoming the lives of the customers into her own is like being a part of many families. Her aunt had been giving her a big family in the only way she could. Regretfully, she acknowledges that her attitude may have spoiled some of that joy for her aunt but is now grateful to the gift that her aunt gave her and sees that the joy is still alive and there for her.

She shares with Eva the box of letters and their translations and apologizes for not loving Eva as, and for who, she is. Pilar understands that keeping Java Blues will give her the safe space she needs to build her own life and strengthen the bond she has with Eva, her aunts, cousins and the rest—including her biological mother whose handmade crafts Pilar will sell to the customers she now welcomes as part of her own family.


Note: Samples should not be read as models. They are provided for discussion.


Sample Synopsis: Java Blues Copyright © 2023 by Melissa Ford Lucken. All Rights Reserved.

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