In this debut autobiography, an adoptive father rails against the Los Angeles family court system after it takes away his adopted daughter following an accusation of abuse.
The book centers on Cambridge’s account of his misadventures with the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services and its “Commissioner No,” his lengthy tale’s bête noire. In April 2008, the childless author and his wife legally adopted the 12-year-old “Cordelia” in Washington state. She’d been diagnosed with a psychological disorder marked by inappropriate responses to social interactions, which proved to be a major difficulty. Cambridge writes that he was fervent in his desire to be a good father, and he says that this required, on one occasion, for him to shower nude with the then-teenage Cordelia, at her request. By late 2008, his wife had fled their Seattle household for Los Angeles. Then, one day in July 2009, the author and his daughter had an argument; during this, he says, Cordelia viciously bit him. In what he calls the greatest mistake of his life, he called the police; Cordelia then alleged abuse, and authorities sent her to live with her adoptive mother in California. The author consequently embarked on a losing struggle, related here, to get her back, made more difficult by his own 2012 diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. A bibliography of books, articles, studies, and other resources on adoption, family law, and mental disorders ends this chaotic memoir. Cambridge, a transplanted Englishman who loves Bob Dylan, Shakespeare, and his home state of Washington, presents a feverish but long-winded cry for justice here. Only after much throat clearing, though, does he even reveal the unfortunate circumstances that ended his relationship with the girl, whom he calls “Cordelia,” after King Lear’s youngest and only true-hearted daughter. This smoldering but sometimes-carping and repetitive volume is the first of three that he plans to publish. By the end of this one, readers will find that Cambridge emerges with one great virtue intact: he seems honest, to a fault.
A disturbing memoir, but one that could possibly be instructive for readers involved in adoption.