Disturbing the Peace:
A Novel
by Nancy Newman
Avon Book, 2002

Reviewed by Barbara Free

     The author is not a triad member, although she writes in the first person as the main character, an adoptee, who decides to search for her birth mother.
     From a writer’s point of view, it is extremely difficult to write authentically about a situation the writer has never experienced, such as being adopted. When this writer read the book, it was hard to separate reading it as simply a reader from reading it as a triad member, from reading it as a writer. Therefore, I asked some other O.I. members to also read it and pass along their comments.
     The book has received some very favorable reviews in other newsletters, but we were a little more skeptical of the way the story develops. One comment was that the search seemed entirely too simple and quick, compared to what many of our members have experienced. We are perhaps so used to reading first-person nonfiction adoption stories that we want all the details to be authentic.
     The birth mother turns out to be none too thrilled with being found, and also turns out to be far from the adoptee’s fond wishes. This is perhaps the saddest, but best-written, part of the book, as they struggle to find a real relationship. Birth mothers will not be thrilled to see the birth mother in the story portrayed as callous and sleazy, but she actually comes across as a three-dimensional person, more real than most of the characters.
     This book is a fairly quick read, and a nice change of pace, because it is a novel. Adoptees who read it may decide to write their own stories of search and reunion, since the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, and sometimes makes even better reading.
     Perhaps one of the best paragraphs in the book, when she has found her birth mother but has not yet revealed who she is, is when she asks her if she has any children and her birth mother says, “Nope.” The character reacts, “Her answer was like a physical blow—a punch in the gut. If she’d blinked or hesitated even for a microsecond, I’d have felt better. But that she’d killed me off so completely sent a chill down my spine.” Many birth mothers, in the past, were told to forget they’d ever had a child, and, indeed, some of them pushed it so far down in their memories that they consciously forgot, and might very well answer as this fictional birth mother did, and the adoptee’s feelings would no doubt be just as the character in this book describes. Those losses are real for both adoptees and birth parents in far too many closed adoptions.

Excerpted from the July 2002 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2002 Operation Identity