This debut fictional memoir features an adoptee who yearns for her biological mother.
Lexie Saunders is 5 years old when she discovers that she is adopted. The scene is a heartbreaking one. Before tucking Lexie into bed, her adoptive mother explains to her: “I picked you out of a nursery of babies.” After reasoning that she has been abandoned by her biological mother, the young girl asks, “Didn’t she love me?”—a question that her adoptive parent cannot answer. As Lexie falls asleep, she confides: “So began a lifetime of missing Mama. It was like living with a hole inside me.” The book opens at an unconventional moment—on Dec. 26, 1951—six weeks before Lexie’s birth. She narrates her birth mother’s story from inside the womb, explaining the reasons that the baby has to be given up for adoption. She recalls “Mama” being escorted to a “home for unwed mothers” by Lexie’s embarrassed grandmother. Lexie’s biological father, disparagingly called “Junior Sperm Donor,” is also described evading his responsibilities and declaring his intention to marry another girl. The narrative follows Lexie’s coming-of-age, the bonds and rifts with her adoptive family, and her escalating desire to fill the emotional hole inside herself by finding her biological mother. In this self-assured first novel, Bierkan is a powerfully evocative writer, and the way she depicts the bond between mother and unborn child is uncanny: “I breathed the lavender she dabbed behind each of her ears after a bath while she stroked my bottom nestled just behind her belly button.” This sense of safety is brutally juxtaposed with Lexie being “unceremoniously dropped into the arms of the first of many faceless strangers” after her birth and the scent of lavender growing “more and more faint.” In this poignant work filled with emptiness, loss, love, and hope, the prose is startlingly realistic, and readers will be forgiven for mistaking the book for nonfiction. The result is a deeply affecting story that may prove a source of comfort to those with similar adoption experiences.
A masterful adoption tale: heart-rending and life-affirming in equal measure.