PATCHWORK CLAN: How the Sweeney Family Grew by Doris Lund

PATCHWORK CLAN: How the Sweeney Family Grew

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KIRKUS REVIEW

By the author of the heart-wrenching Eric (about a young leukemia victim): yet another sure-fire story about a remarkable, room-for-one-more family, the Connecticut Sweeneys--Ann and John and their spread of 17 children, ten of them adopted. Why was musician/teacher Ann, who had seven children from two marriages, impelled to adopt homeless and often ""unadoptable"" youngsters? The shock of a medically-bungled miscarriage during her sixth pregnancy fueled the urge to adopt jaunty baby Marcus, of multi-racial parentage; but more. . . and more? ""There was joy in the rescue,"" Ann attests, ""a joy that increased as you saw the child unfold, grow and respond."" Many of the Sweeney children were indeed ""rescued"": the blind Indian child from Colombia; Terry with a lung condition; unhappy Vietnamese teenager Minh, who'd been sent out to work at nine; and two tough little abused black chaps, Michael and Carey. But the most dramatic rescue involved the Vietnamese family of Chuong, ten, Dat, four, and baby Huong. The book opens with Chuong's nightmare memories of the screaming mob at the Saigon waterfront where he lost his loving parents and his other siblings forever; the hunger and terror in a crowded boat to Hong Kong; a relocation camp in the US; a stay with a poor, defeated Vietnamese family in New York State, where the children were neglected and often unfed. Lund follows the intelligent, sensitive Chuong's relationship with his new family from his initial hostility and suspicion to his apparently happy adjustment--though there's a setback when the Vietnamese family in New York threatens a custody case, to honor distant family obligations. Michael and Carey, adopted last, repeat Chuong's early hostile behavior: to Lund, ""There are terrible similarities in the traumas suffered by children exposed to war in Vietnam and those in an American city ghetto."" But also in evidence is the hair-raising-to-delightful cacophony of the assembled Sweeney household: birthdays and holidays; a tidal wave of baths; sibling rivalry; the astonishing commissary; and Ann's perpetual motion. Though some readers might like to hear more about that controversial topic, inter-cultural nurture, this is a guaranteed all-ages attention-getter.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown