Forming Families | LJ Reviews

McCaffrey, Molly. You Belong to Us. Mint Hill. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9781599485201. pap. $15.95. MEMOIR

youbelongtous111915Newly married and in her early 30s, the author decided to meet the mother who had given her up for adoption at birth. What she found was far from a fairy tale, and the emotions the young woman describes in this memoir are all too real: fear about the new relationship, disappointment that the woman and her family are so different—­McCaffrey’s studying for a doctorate in English while they own a biker bar—but the worst revelation is that the author’s birth parents married after her adoption and had four more children. She’s angry that her father rejected her mother when she was pregnant the first time, and struggles to like the raucous clan. ­McCaffrey is also rather uptight and snobby—her various judgements about her new kin really start to grate—and the relationships fray. Over the eight years covered in the book, things go from bad to worse. VERDICT This story is unsatisfying, but that’s part of its appeal—adoption reunions are not always happily ever after, and there’s not too much reflection of that in popular culture. For those affected by adoption and students of social work.—Henrietta Verma, Library Journal

Norbury, Katharine. The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream. Bloomsbury USA. 2015. 304p. illus. ISBN 9781620409954. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781632860019. MEMOIR

fishladder111915Recovering from the death of her child in utero and from enduring the pregnancy until it ended naturally a month after that, Norbury becomes fixated on a book she read years before, which describes following a river from its mouth to its source. At the same time, her loss has made her more interested in her own birth and adoption, and the two compulsions come together when she sets off on natural explorations in the British countryside with her daughter, and finds her birthplace—a convent—and nuns who remember her as a baby. The bulk of the account, the woodsy writing about the natural world and other themes such as Celtic myths, is dreamlike and lovely; these make the book more suited to nature readers than to adoptees. At the same time, nature lovers won’t necessarily want to read about adoption. VERDICT This account is well written but will struggle to find an audience.—Henrietta Verma, Library Journal

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