A frank account of the challenges faced by an American family seeking to adopt five children from Russia.
John and Amy Simmons have four sons; one is an adopted special needs child. Yet without girls, their family seemed incomplete, and so they resolved to adopt their first daughters. In his memoir, John Simmons recounts an experience both trying and inspirational: The practically-minded author and his compassionate wife, frustrated by arbitrary rules of the American foster system, opted to travel to Russia to expand their family, only to find a whole new set of challenges and heartbreaking conditions in Russian orphanages. Complicating matters further, after adopting two sisters, Katya and Luba, along with a sickly boy named Kirrill (to become Sarah, Celeste, and Denney, respectively), the Simmonses discovered that the girls’ abusive mother had other children, and they were resolute in saving as many of their siblings as possible. Simmons’ (Marvelous Journey Home, 2007) memoir straightforwardly depicts his family’s expansion and its concomitant struggles, as well as his inner misgivings. Told in a colloquial style, the author assumes a bluntness that’s strangely refreshing, even when bordering on the judgmental; it offers balance to what could have been a saccharine tale. Repetition, which would become tiresome under other circumstances, captures the tedium John and Amy faced and offers an approximation of their endless waiting. Yet the book truly excels in its depictions of other people, including young Celeste, who’s coddled and assertive; Celeste’s older sister, Sarah, who suffers from behavioral problems and survivor’s guilt; and a Boy Scout-esque consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Despite the narrative’s intimacy, there are moments when the author abruptly, even admittedly, closes himself off from the reader—the difficulties of the older siblings joining the family is glossed over, while Simmons himself seems uncomfortable dissecting his own feelings as it concerns his oft-mentioned struggle with his own pragmatism and his wife’s religious leanings.
An odd yet effective mix of cynicism and sentimentality.