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Novel Ideas

Need a new selection for the book club? Consider one of these adoption-themed novels. With relatable characters and issues central to our families, these picks are sure to spark discussion at your next meeting.

Run, by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)
When college-student Tip is pushed out of the way of an oncoming car, his family assumes his savior is a stranger--but she's actually Tip's birthmother, who has been secretly watching Tip and brother Teddy grow up. All too quickly, the boys, their widowed father, and their birthmother's preteen daughter are faced with a new family dynamic.

"And why was it the boys had never asked about her either, never said, as children in similar circumstances surely must, what about our real mother? Maybe because it was natural to wonder about the one who was missing, the one who left you, and for their family that would always be Bernadette. No one could be expected to hold up two empty places."

Digging to America, by Anne Tyler (Alfred A. Knopf)
What does it mean to be an American? When two families--the very American Donaldsons and the Iranian-American Yazdans--meet at the airport arrivals gate to welcome their daughters from Korea, they form a fast friendship. As the girls grow, the families bond over yearly arrival parties and frequent play dates, and learn to define "American" in their own ways.

"'Isn't it odd,' Maryam said. 'Just like that, a completely unknown person is a part of their family forever. Well, of course that's true of a birth child, too, but…I don't know, this seems more astonishing.'"

Happy Family, by Wendy Lee (Grove/Atlantic)
Hua, a new immigrant to New York from China, befriends city mom Jane and her infant daughter, Lily, who was adopted from China. When Jane offers Hua a job as Lily's babysitter, she accepts, and becomes fiercely attached to the little girl, who reminds her of her own past.
The outsider's perspective on an American family, and on intercountry adoption, is interesting, though you may lose sympathy for Hua by the novel's end.

"'Well, if they do split up, I feel sorry for Lily.'
     'But think of what she was saved from. She would probably have died from some third-world disease or grown up with no education or been sold into sexual slavery if she'd stayed.'
     'Might be better than being a child of divorce. Less therapy later.'
I didn't want to hear it anymore. Affairs, divorce, and therapy--these were the stuff of American families."

The Mercy Rule, by Perri Klass (Houghton Mifflin)
As a doctor and a mom of two, Lucy Weiss calls herself a foster-system success story. Now she runs a clinic that caters to kids in foster care--and her dual perspective as an insider and a mother gives her a unique view. Lucy's musings on her patients and parenthood (she has an uptight middle-school daughter and a quirky young son) make this book both humorous and poignant. It reads more like a series of short stories, rather than a novel, but it's hard to put down.

"As I remember it, foster care was kind of unremarkable back then. The ladies took you in, and then their nephew got out of the army and needed a place to stay or they decided to go visit their sister in Florida, and the placement changed. And I kept wondering, How is it that everyone else has all these connections, these nephews, these sisters, these people they want to visit and be visited by? What happened to my share?"

Somebody Else's Daughter, by Elizabeth Brundage (Penguin)
A novel of what-lies-beneath, the story follows the lives of families in a private-school community in Massachusetts. Writing teacher Nate hides the fact that he is the birthfather of teenage Willa, one of his students. But he's not the only one in town hiding a secret from his neighbors. It's a bit of a fantasy--the plot twists include affairs, lies, and murder--but the novel has a broad perspective on adoption, since many characters take turns as narrator, including Nate, Willa, and her adoptive parents (each of whom also has a shameful secret).

"When it was all over, when everything had been signed, they walked me out. You had started to fuss and she took you inside to give you a bottle, but I didn't think you were hungry. It was another kind of hunger, and you couldn't satisfy it with milk or food, and I knew in my heart it would linger and I found myself wondering if you would eventually get used to it."

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