[Book Review] A Ghost at Heart's Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption

Amy Klatzkin reviews A Ghost at Heart's Edge, a literary anthology of adoption poems edited by Susan Ito & Tina Cervin that honors the diversity of adoption.


North Atlantic Books; 1999

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While adoption as a plot device pervades popular culture from Shirley Temple to Star Wars, it’s rarely the stuff of serious contemporary fiction or poetry. Or so I thought until I read A Ghost at Heart’s Edge, the dazzling literary anthology edited by Susan Ito and Tina Cervin.

Much of the writing in this collection is superb, not only from renowned contributors (Isabel Allende, Louise Erdrich, Chitra Divakaruni, Alison Lurie, Joni Mitchell) but from some unknowns as well. And the breadth of perspective is immense. We read of birth mothers and fathers making and living with the decision not to parent; adoptees young and old, embracing or struggling with a complex identity; adoptive parents before, during, and after childrearing; and others outside but connected to the triad, such as birth and adoptive grandparents. All come together in these pages to create a grand community of adoption that rarely assembles in real life.

A Ghost at Heart’s Edge honors the diversity of experience through adoption poems and stories. Not every reunion is fulfilling, but some are. Not all adopted children feel like misfits in their families, but some do. Not every birth parent experiences relinquishment and its lifelong aftermath in the same way. But all have something in common: those ghosts in the anthology’s title, birth children lost or never born, birth parents hovering in memory or fantasy, experiences that might have been shared, lives that would have been different if…

While a piece here or there may not suit your taste, all are worth savoring. Ito and Cervin have hosted a magnificent potluck feast of a book where every dish is nourishing.



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