Kuehnel’s debut memoir tells of a young boy changing countries, changing families, and enduring nearly as much hardship as a life can hold.
In 1974, when he was 8 years old, Kuehnel’s mother abandoned him and his younger brothers on the streets of Quezon City in the Philippines. He writes that he “felt like a disposable diaper, discarded when soiled.” He was soon sent to an orphanage, where he and his brothers waited by the curb outside each day until, eventually, they gave up hope. Their father came to visit early on, only to leave again and never return; they also went to see their mother’s new family, who sent them away. They later moved to a rougher orphanage where “After a while, our stomachs learned not to rumble, but nothing eased the constant ache.” The bullying there was constant, and they endured beatings by “house parents”; their only toys were made of trash, and their only bath was an open sewer. The author eventually escaped to the streets, but “to survive, I had to rely on the half-eaten, half-rotten food that people threw away.” Eventually, he was lucky enough to find adoptive parents in America who cared for him. However, he still had to deal with years of culture shock and lost hope. Even now, after obtaining a doctorate and founding a charitable organization, Kuehnel still feels “alone even when…surrounded by friends and family.” By this exceptionally touching memoir’s end, readers will understand the reasons behind his feelings of solitude and marvel at his life’s burdens. He clearly paints the disturbing details of his early life in run-down institutions and on the streets. Kuehnel knows that there’s no such thing as an entirely happy ending, and he respects his readers too much to offer one. But he does show cautious optimism in the book’s final pages and a faith in mankind that readers won’t be able to help but admire.
A brutal, frightening, but ultimately hopeful story of adoption.