A harrowing story of an international adoption gone wrong.
In a debut memoir first published in Spanish in 2015, Franco soberly recounts her failed adoption experience. Thirty-six and single, she went through an agency to adopt from a Russian orphanage. She traveled from Barcelona to Yekaterinburg and met Alba, who, at 2 years old, appeared small for her age but intelligent. The two got along well, and Alba called her “Mama.” But Alba’s behavior was worrying. She trashed their hotel room, and back in Spain, she slapped a baby in a stroller. Soon, Alba was expelled from school due to her aggressiveness. In the meantime, Franco fell in love with Pablo, and they married. She bore three children, and the family moved frequently, including to Chicago and Australia, for Pablo’s work. Complaints accumulated as Alba disrupted classes and damaged property. “In society’s eyes, seen from the outside, I was simply a bad mother who couldn’t control her daughter,” the author reports. Even more distressingly, Alba started hurting her siblings, wrapping sheets around the babies’ necks and throwing her 2-year-old brother into a swimming pool. “Every day she scared me more,” Franco writes, and “my efforts to change her behavior were futile.” Through it all, she kept Pablo, who was often away on business, in the dark. There were innumerable close shaves with the children’s safety, yet a combination of incredulity and guilt kept Franco silent. Ultimately, with her parents’ help, she had Alba admitted to a children’s institution in Barcelona. This disturbing material is relayed in a calm, measured tone that occasionally falls flat because of a dearth of discrete scenes and dialogue. In essence, the book is an extended self-justification, so avoiding melodrama was important. Even this short chronicle becomes repetitive when recounting patterns of behavior, though. Thankfully, despite talk of psychopathy, Franco doesn’t take the low road of portraying Alba as a monster but keeps in mind the girl’s rough start in life. Franco convinces the reader she showed nearly infinite patience—and did all she could for Alba.
A mother’s unadorned account of raising a troubled child.