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The English American

by Alison Larkin (Simon & Schuster; $24.00)

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The English American (Simon & Schuster, $24) takes us on a rollicking ride of reunion, as seen through the eyes of an adoptee. The author, Alison Larkin, who has a one-woman show of the same name, uses humor and pathos in equal measure. You need only to turn the page to find something that will make you laugh…or cry.

Above all, it is the characters who stay with you. First, there is Pippa, the title character, who was adopted at birth by a reserved English couple. You will come to love her as she muddles her way through childhood; discovers her American heritage, at age 15; and navigates the ups and downs of a search and reunion. Her journey of self-discovery and identity becomes our own. I still think about her, weeks after finishing this book.

There is also Mum, her adoptive mother, who embodies the ideal of British decorum, but infused with warmth and understanding. Dad, on the other hand, is curmudgeonly and protective, the voice of caution, who believes that some things are better left alone. However, it is Billie—Pippa’s birthmother—who provides the real tension in this tale. She is well-intentioned, even if seriously misinformed. For the most part, she is a walking exemplar of what not to do in a reunion. There are other characters, including Pippa’s birthfather, and a couple of interesting subplots as well.

While Pippa’s story is truly her own, she has something to teach all of us who are involved in adoption. So, as you turn the pages, read, laugh, and learn.

Reviewed by Brenda Romanchik, executive director of Insight: Open Adoption Resources and Support. She is a birthmother in an open adoption. The audio book, read by the author, is also available for immediate download from

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