OPEN by Alaina O'Connell


An Adoption Story in Three Voices
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A debut group memoir joins the voices of an adoptive mother, a birth mother, and the daughter they both love as they retell their experiences.

Counselor Alaina O’Connell got an unexpected chance to start over when, divorced in the early 1990s, she married her children’s piano teacher, Jason, and they adopted baby Sara. This book started life as a gift for Sara O’Connell. Among the narrative sections co-authored by Sara’s birth mother, Porter, are Alaina’s poems plus letters that passed between them. Porter was born in Germany but raised in the United States by a single mother after her father was killed in Vietnam. Both Alaina and Porter give a whirlwind tour through their separate upbringings before deftly focusing on the Seattle-area open adoption. With no money or support from her boyfriend, Duncan, pregnant Porter reluctantly decided on adoption. She interviewed five potential couples, choosing the O’Connells because the wife spoke German and the husband was musical. From the start, Alaina felt a mystical connection to this unborn child: “Our baby is about to be born.…She’s out there. We have to find her,” she insisted to Jason. Moving between the two mothers’ memories, the touching book offers subtly different perspectives on the same events and reveals how wrenching it was to set up terms for the open adoption. Initially Porter demanded to see Sara monthly and call anytime. “We were being manipulated.…What choice did we have?” Alaina mused. When the O’Connells decided not to allow more visits until Sara was of an age to request them, Porter felt betrayed. Despite the troubled nature of their relationship over the years, the women shared a deep connection through Sara. “You have a heart like mine,” Alaina wrote to Porter. “People like us…because we’re open, get hurt.” Poignant moments abound in this cogent, detailed work, as when 4-year-old Sara recounts to Porter the story of her birth as she understands it and when Sara visits Porter and her half sisters for the first time. A brief final section authored by Sara herself describes meeting her birth father.

A well-crafted, multiperspective view of the benefits of adoption.

Pub Date: May 18th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5043-8049-2
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: BalboaPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2017


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