Choosing To See – by Mary Beth Chapman (2010)

Choosing To See

Mary Beth Chapman is married to Steven Curtis Chapman, the award-winning Christian music artist. Together they had three children, but their family was not complete. When their oldest child Emily was in high school, she became convinced that her parents should adopt an orphan girl from China. After some thought and much prayer, Steven and Mary Beth became convinced that God did indeed want them to adopt. Over the course of a few years, they adopted three little girls from orphanages in China. The youngest child was named Maria.

The book covers how the Chapmans met and married, Steven’s struggle to make it in the music industry, and their growing family. There are good times and bad times. But nothing compares in tragedy to the day when little Maria dashes in front of their son Will’s car, and is run over. She is rushed to the hospital, but is too badly injured to survive. The entire family experiences almost unbearable grief, as well as feelings of guilt.

This was an extremely difficult story to read. I had to stop and start back up several times to finish the book. The very randomness of Maria’s death gives the reader the uneasy realization that this could happen to any family. All it takes is one small thing to happen, and your child can be gone. For most people, this is a disturbing thought. But Steven and Mary Beth leaned on their deep faith in God, and their family slowly was able to heal. Their testimony reminds us that no matter what terrible things may happen in life, God will carry us through our darkest days.

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A Long Way Home – by Saroo Brierley (2013)

A Long Way Home

Imagine that you are five years old, and your mother is too poor to pay for you and your siblings to go to school. So you spend your days searching for scraps of food to eat, and playing in the streets. One day you beg your oldest brother to let you hop the train with him to another town, where he finds odd jobs. Imagine sitting on a train station bench to wait for him, falling asleep, and then awakening to wonder if you’ve been left behind. You hop on the train that you think is the way home, not realizing that trains have many destinations.

This is how young Saroo comes to be separated from his village and family, and a lost child on the dangerous streets of Calcutta, India (now called Kolkuta). He actually manages to survive on the streets for several weeks before a teenager takes him to the police station as a lost child. Not knowing how to read or write, not knowing his full name or even the correct name of the town he lives in, the authorities cannot find his family. Saroo is sent to an orphanage, and in less than a year is adopted by a couple in Australia. There he is loved and well cared for, and grows to adulthood. But in the background is always his wish that his mother and siblings could know that he is alive and well.

This memoir was fascinating from beginning to end. I listened to it as an audio-book, and the narrator’s Indian accent made it feel totally real. The story was so compelling that I actually managed to let my coffee percolator burn dry on the stove while I listened! Let me tell you, that has never happened to me before, despite years of percolating coffee. I was so impressed by Saroo’s love for his Australian parents and adopted brother, as well as his attempt to let his Indian family know that he was alright. This is truly a book worth picking up at your local library, bookstore, or online.

Pigs In Heaven – by Barbara Kingsolver (1993)

Pigs in heaven 2

Who is your family, and where is home? Is it the ones you share a bloodline with, and their community? Or is it your adoptive parents and the new place you live? And who gets to decide?

This is the story of Turtle, a Cherokee girl, who was given away to a white woman, Taylor, at the age of three. Now she is six years old and considers Taylor her mother. While they are visiting the Hoover Dam, they manage to save the live of a young man who accidentally falls into a spill-off drain. This lands them in the news, which draws attention to the fact that a Native American child has been illegally adopted out of her heritage.

From that point on, there is a fight over who gets to have Turtle. The Cherokee Nation wants her back. But Taylor is willing to give up everything – her boyfriend Jax, her job, friends and her old neighborhood – to keep her daughter. They go into hiding, and are joined by Alice, Taylor’s mother.

Although this is a fictitious story, it conveys very well the agony that both sides go through when trying to reverse an adoption. It’s an extremely difficult experience for everyone, especially the child in the middle. The debate is further complicated by Turtle being a Native American child, therefore not eligible to be adopted by Taylor because of the Indian Child Welfare Act. There are no easy answers, and the decision-makers need to have the wisdom of King Solomon.

 

 

The Angels Of Morgan Hill – by Donna VanLiere (2006)

angels-of-morgan-hill

In the mid-1940s, Morgan Hill is a tiny, quiet town where nothing much every happens. Then one day, a black family moves in. Some neighbors extend a welcoming hand and heart, while others plot ways of making the family move out. A unique friendship develops between Fran Gable, a widowed mother of two, and Addy Turner.

When a tragedy strikes and Addy is dying, Fran promises she will raise young Milo. Her children, Jane and John, love Milo and consider him a little brother. But money is tight, and prejudice is running high. Fran begins to wonder if maybe it would be less traumatic to Milo if she allowed him to be adopted by a black family.

This is an interesting read that tackles the subjects of true friendship, bi-racial adoption, and conflicted feelings within the family. How important is it to look like the rest of your family? Does it even matter? This thoughtful little book can easily be read in a couple evenings.

When I Found You – by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2013)

When I Found You

 

On a cold October morning in the predawn hours, Nathan McCann set out with his dog Sadie to do a little duck-hunting. He caught no fowl that day, but he did find – with Sadie’s prompting – a newborn baby in the woods. At first it appeared dead, but when the baby moved, Nathan rushed him to the hospital, saving his life.

From that point on, Nathan’s life was never the same. He felt a great bond with the child, but his request to adopt was denied when the grandmother said she would take him. She named the baby Nathan – Nat for short – out of respect for the man who saved his life, but did not allow the two to meet for fifteen years. When Nat started getting into adolescent trouble, she dumped him at Nathan’s door, saying he could keep the boy.

What I most loved about this story was the unconditional love Nathan had for Nat Even though they didn’t share the first 15 years, Nathan always sent packages for his birthday and Christmas. When he was abruptly given custody of Nat, he had no experience at being a parent, but dove in fearlessly. At times Nat made some bad choices, but he could always count on Nathan – who he considered his grandfather – to be there for him.

The character of the grandmother was puzzling to me. Being a grandparent myself, I could not imagine rejecting a child, or considering them a mere obligation. She was totally the opposite of Nathan. But the book reminded me that in the midst of the turmoil in life, all it takes to change your outlook in life is one person. Just one person who loves unconditionally.

Found – by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2008)

Found

From time to time, I take a departure from my regular adult-level books, and read a book that is supposed to be for teens or even kids. What I often find is a great story, one I wish had been there when I was in middle or high school. Such is “Found”, the first book in author Haddix’s “The Missing” series.

The novels opens with two 13-year-old friends, Jonah and Chip, getting identical letters in the mail that just say: “You are one of the missing.” They think it’s just some kind of joke – until they both get another letter than says: “Beware – they’re coming back to get you.” The friends try investigating on their own, and discover that they don’t know everything about their early life. They – along with 34 more people – have actually been stolen from other times and places. Someone is trying to locate and return them to their correct place in history.

I loved the conversations and the disagreements between Chip, Jonah, and Katherine (Jonah’s sister). They did indeed sound just the way siblings and close friends would react in this situation. Katherine isn’t quite one of the “missing”, but she tags along, and adds a interesting character to the mix. Jonah’s parents were very believable as well. This book is a great suspense/science fiction read that can enjoyed by just about anyone.