by Chandra Hoffman
Reviewed by Cathrine
is a dramatic page-turner, filled with trauma, lies, deceit, infidelity, sex, greed
and unlikeable characters. It is the kind of book that could get you through a long
flight with multiple layovers, and when you are finished, you can throw it away.
Unfortunately, it sensationalizes the tender issues of adoption and demeans those
involved in the adoption process.
The Chosen Child, a fictional agency in Portland, OR,
is the kind of agency that gives adoption agencies a very bad name. The agency seems
to lack the understanding that adoptions are not sales subject to quotas. Placing a
baby means a child is separated from his or her mother, a separation with lifelong
effects for the child, the biological parents, and the adoptive parents. The Chosen
Child Agency sees placing a baby as closing the sale, getting the birth
mother to sign and providing a baby for couples where getting the money
is the goal. The agency director is portrayed almost as a Madam, who sees her staff
as the means to bringing in money. She is perceived by her staff as trying to heal
a wound or fill some past emptiness (which is only rumored), by adopting
trophy children from around the world. The children are literally
described not only as trophies, but as brats with severe disabilities,
causing noise and mess at the agency.
Madam Agency Owner, however, is not the greediest
character of them all. We get to know the intimate details of the lives of two
adoptive couples and a couple who choose adoption for their baby. The adoptive
mothers are presented as withered, barren, narcissistic, entitled women who are
desperate for a healthy white newborn baby, only to be depressed, resentful and
worn out by the babies that they finally get, (one through adoption
and one finally through biology). The two husbands, once their wives have babies
in their arms, have their wandering eyes on other women, even the agency social
worker. Most disturbing are the drug-addicted, low-life, ex-con birth parents,
whose greed and actions are the epitome of adoptive parents and agencies
nightmares. Yet, unlike the other characters, there is something endearing about
them as we experience the grief and desperation that underlies their greed.
There is no empathy for the distressed crying baby
who is seen, interestingly enough, as detoxing from nicotine and not grieving the
loss of his mother. Instead of concern and empathy for her baby, the new mother
expresses self-pity for having to deal with the crying, and anger that she was
not told by the agency adoption worker that the mother smoked!
The agency adoption worker, the central character
of the novel, states many times that she is living her dream job,
only to find herself discouraged and tired. She is a people-pleaser, working
around the clock, pleasing the pregnant couple so that they will sign
so that the director will be pleased, and the waiting couples will be happy.
None of them is pleased. In the end, she develops some empathy for the
relinquishing parents, at least the mother, motivating some illegal actions.
Finally, however, she gives up her dream job and follows her boyfriend to
paradise when she discovers her own unplanned pregnancy.
The author states that her characters and the
situations of the story are composites of what she experienced as an adoption
worker. As the director of an adoption agency, I have dealt with agencies and
adoption workers that are in it for the money. Yes, there are narcissistic,
entitled couples who want healthy white babies because they cant
biologically have them. Yes, there are couples who cannot parent because they
are on drugs and are looking for a handout. Yes, there are children who have
been adopted who have more than their share of problems. But that is only part
of the picture. Adoption is so much more: it is bittersweet, yes. We should
live in a world where there is no need for adoption. But, I have always been
an idealistic person, and I often think I should live in a world where there
is not war, poverty, hatred, etc. I choose love stories over horror stories.
As an adoptive mother, I know that adoption is a
love story, often a heartbreaking love story. It is a love story filled with
tears of grief, deep sorrow and relief, and tears of joy and long-awaited
fulfillment. I have been humbled and honored to be in the presence of women and
men who, with their hearts breaking, chose adoption for their child. I have
cried for my childrens birth mothers, because I could not imagine
bringing them into the world and not being able to raise them. I know adoptive
parents who do not fear their childs birth mother, but instead have
embraced them and love them. I know adoptive parents who choose adoption not
because they cannot have a child and need a child, but because there are
children who need homes. And then, there are the children. They are not gifts,
trophies, or brats, as the book describes them, but precious human beings whose
lives will forever be altered by adoption.
Chandra Hoffman chose to create a trashy novel, a
horror story actually, around the greed and entitlement of adoption. I find that
to be sad, irresponsible, and disrespectful to those of us involved in adoption.
Cathrine Troy, M.A., LPCC, ATR, is the Executive Director of All Ages Adoptions
Plus, an Albuquerque adoption agency that handles domestic and international
adoptions. She is also the adoptive mother of a daughter adopted from China and two
sons adopted from Liberia.
Excerpted from the October 2013
edition of the Operation Identity Newsletter
© 2013 Operation Identity