I guess I should’ve expected how close to home this would hit: the subtitle sums it up. It revolves around the oral histories of women who were sent to homes for unwed mothers in the 1940s-1960s, their nearly-always coerced adoptions, their lives after surrendering, their reunions if they ever occurred. I am part of a birth family: my mother relinquished my two younger siblings for adoption, and it defined my childhood. Adoption is such a sore nerve, I almost never read about it. Besides which, my own grandmother was an unwed mother in 1965 and had a hasty and doomed marriage that was the only alternative to adoption for most of these women.
How did this one slip past my no-adoption-books rule? The title made it sound like it was one big pro-choice argument. I’m a “pro-life” Catholic, please don’t throw tomatoes at me. I have to make an aside here because it makes me uneasy to call myself pro-life, and I just can’t do it without a caveat: I do believe that life begins at conception, and I do believe that ending a life is wrong. But. I am so, so, so thoroughly supportive of anything that reduces unwanted pregnancies (all the contraceptives in the world, thorough sex-ed, etc.). I do believe that valuing life means every life, and I am radically pro-immigration and anti-death penalty. I vote Democrat, and the thought of someone thinking I’m a Trump supporter absolutely makes my skin crawl. Anyway, the title made me think it was going to be essentially a case for abortion, and I think that if your views can’t hold up against the “other side’s” case, your views are bullshit.
Why do I always do this? I really could’ve just reviewed this book without bringing up my religious beliefs, for Christ’s sake. But reading is personal for me, books raised me. So you get reviews filled with oversharing. I can’t separate it.
Anyway, it didn’t really end up being political one way or the other. The only strong position that Fessler takes is that there’s more than one way for social workers and their ilk to handle birth families, and some ways are humane and supportive while others are most definitely not. The stories are very similar, but only slightly repetitive toward the end. I had a very difficult time putting it down, and could not stop thinking about the world my mother was conceived in. I told my Granny about it, and now she’s reading it. I absolutely can’t wait to discuss it with her.