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Reading adoptive mom Jeanne Marie Laskas’ latest family memoir, Growing Girls: The Mother of All Adventures, is like taking a humorous tour through your own multitasking mother-brain. Laskas rarely remains focused on any one issue—or thought—for more than a couple of paragraphs. Stick around, though, and you’ll find that she circles back to the main topic at hand: birthing lambs (she lives on a farm), talking about adoption with unwilling kids, or feeling like a bad mother. By the end of a chapter, you realize that her stream-of-consciousness style is carefully crafted to make a point. But the process is like having coffee with a rambling, semi-neurotic girlfriend. Afterward, you feel great, because your own crazy life has been validated.
Laskas writes about adoption travel and her mixed emotions about birth parents. But she doesn’t put adoption issues above all else, which, come to think of it, is how most of us live; adoption is important, but not all-consuming. So, while the topic gets play in the book, so do a competition over whose child has the best valentine box and unusual chicken behaviors.
In one powerful section, Laskas expresses anger that anyone could leave a baby—her baby—alone on a street for even a minute. In another, she imagines meeting her daughters’ birth mothers when they’re all old women, to verify in each other the fulfillment of every mother’s pledge: we did the best with what we had. This sentiment, and the rest of the book, will resonate with moms everywhere.
Reviewed by Lee Tobin McClain, Ph.D., a professor of creative writing at Seton Hill University and an adoptive mom. She lives in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.