Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Far from the Tree, by Robin Benway

Sixteen year-old Grace's recent pregnancy and experience with putting her baby up for adoption gets her thinking about her own biological mother, whom she's never met.  And when she learns from her adoptive parents that her birth mother actually had two other children -- Maya and Joaquin -- she tracks them down and tries to convince them that they should try to find their mother together.  For differing reasons, her siblings want nothing to do with the idea, but still bond over their common roots.

It's a particularly traumatic time for Maya, whose parents are separating, but even Joaquin has issues as a survivor of the foster system (he was never actually adopted).  The three children's reunion serves as a catalyst for many hidden and suppressed problems to surface.

Billed as a story about the meaning of family, the novel is actually a bit more focused, looking at the emotional tie of adoption and what it means to bring in a child to the family unit without a blood tie.  That idea (and the exploration of it) will likely make adoptees and adoptive families uncomfortable, but Benway touches on it with great sensitivity.

That doesn't mean that this is light reading.  Particularly towards the end, this story becomes pretty traumatic reading as all sorts of heartstrings are pulled.  It ends as well as one could expect, but there's a lot of pain to explore and catharsis to be endured.  If you're like me, that makes this a great book.  If you prefer lighter reading, I'd suggest giving this a pass.

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