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The Waiting Child

by Cindy ChampnellaSt. Martin’s Press; $23.95

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Get out your handkerchief and settle in for a good, quick read. The Waiting Child, by Cindy Champnella, is an amazing, sad, and uplifting story, well worth shedding tears over. Any parent who has adopted a child from an institution will be as riveted as I was.

Jaclyn, three years old when she was adopted, arrived with clear, distinct memories of life before adoption. Angry about the injustices she experienced, this young child recounted detailed and depressing information about orphanage life—physical punishment, fear of rats, being cold and hungry—to her parents over the months after her arrival. Jaclyn had taken care of a much younger little boy in the orphanage and was crushed to leave him behind. In the end, the boy was adopted, but it would give away too much to share details.

As the parent of a child adopted from China at the same age as Jaclyn, I found the details enlightening yet extremely disturbing. My son told me no specifics about his life before adoption. The descriptions of Jaclyn’s emotional outbursts, fears, food hoarding, and more could all have been written about my child. Hearing of another child whose reactions were so similar was comforting.

Still, with the story focused on Jaclyn’s crusade to get “her baby” home, the reader is left wanting to know much more about Jaclyn’s adjustment to family life, about how her siblings coped with the introduction of such a dynamic personality into the household, and how Jaclyn and her family will manage many older-child adoption issues over time.

Champnella was naïve going into older child adoption, and she admits to plenty of parenting mistakes. Though her writing can be sentimental, the beauty and truth of this extraordinary story triumph over style. Whether you are looking for inside information on orphanage life or simply a great story of love and hope and perseverance, grab that hankie and open this book.

Reviewed by Carrie Krueger, the mother of three children, all by adoption. She and her family live in Washington State.

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