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A Love Like No Other

edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill SmoloweRiverhead Books; $23.95

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The 20 essayists in this anthology provide courageous, intimate glimpses into their lives in the months and years since children joined them through adoption. It is a magical and candid collection, which I found impossible to put down. The phone rang and chores beckoned, but I continued to read. I was still reading at 3 p.m. when my brood poured into the house.

"Mom, I need more glue."

"Mom, are you listening?"

I hugged them vaguely and tried to nod and 'hmmm' my way through their arrival, while I kept reading. After dinner I locked myself in the bathroom and turned on the shower, but instead sat on the floor and read "Post-Adoption Panic," Melissa Fay Greene's unforgettable exploration of post-adoption depression.

Later that evening, while reading Jacquelyn Mitchard's "Which Ones Are Yours?," I could not suppress my outrage or laughter. I shared Mitchard's saga with my husband and children, who alternately chuckled and fumed at this account of outsiders' questions, so familiar to our multiethnic family.

I ended with Jenifer Levin's "Special Needs," and was glad to be alone in the kitchen as I read it, weeping. It was late, but I could not put down this too-familiar saga of children with special needs. "Feeling unwanted is a terrible and deforming thing," writes Levin, "especially for a child. Beneath the suffering and despair, a kind of rage develops." The sun was rising when I finally put down the book.

As I walked my children to the bus stop, I had the grace to apologize for my distracted state.

"That's OK, Mommy," MeiMei said. "Sometimes a book is just that good."

Mason Cooley wrote: "Every path to a new understanding begins in confusion." In this book you may recognize, as I did, your own bewildered pre-adoption sentiments. This book does not provide unrealistic reassurances about forming families through adoption. It's not a book for readers who want fairy-tale endings. But for everyone else, I guarantee it will provoke, edify, anger, amuse, stretch, touch, captivate, or even transform you. That's a lot of verbs for the price of one book.

Reviewed by Marybeth Lambe, a writer who lives with her family in Washington State.

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