I Found A Memoir About Loss

The book is called Found. And I am so glad I did. I have been searching like mad through my brain trying to remember who recommended this book so I can thank her.

Found is actually a sequel to a memoir called Blackbird, which I have not read. There was no need to read it first, although I plan to search for it.

Jennifer Lauck is an award-winning journalist, a skilled memoir writer, teacher, and speaker. But before she was those things she was a newborn never touched by her biological mother, a baby adopted by a sickly woman and her husband who both died by the time Jennifer was seven, and a little girl sent to live with various relatives of the adoptive parents. Later she was adopted by relatives who were inadequate and abusive. She knew they didn’t love her and wanted her social security money.

Apparently Blackbird is the story of her childhood, but in Found, Lauck gives the reader enough scenes of that childhood to understand the woman Lauck became. Found is the story of that woman.

Lauck presents herself as a “tough cookie” who goes after her education and a career as a reporter with determination. At the same time, the reader learns that there is a gaping abyss of loss and crushing feelings of abandonment at her very core. When she begins to search for what is wrong, she ends up at a Buddhist retreat, and for years, she commutes between the retreat and her home. But it’s a long time before she realizes that she needs to search for her birth mother. The irony of the seasoned reporter not realizing she had the tools necessary to search indicates how far down Lauck had suppressed her real feelings.

There is so much about Lauck’s story that is tragic. In the midst of the trail of tragedy the reader follows Lauck on, guide posts are placed. These guide posts are clues back to, or threads leading from, her original identity. They also add suspense and tension to the story.

Where this book moved beyond other adoption stories I’ve read is that Lauck allows the reader to explore with her the complexity of her feelings about her losses, about adoption, and about her family members, especially her birth mother.  There are so many emotion-filled scenes, but a quiet moment that really touched my heart was when Lauck agrees to be the mommy driver for two of her daughter’s classmates. She recognizes them as fellow adoptees. In their case, they are international adoptees, from Vietnam and India, whereas Lauck’s adoption was domestic (and private, not through the state, which made her search more difficult). With this one expert move, Lauck shows the reader her growing awareness of how the trauma of adoption has affected her personality, that she has learned compassion for others (yes, others have gone through this early abandonment and loss, too), and that some of the same problems of adoption still exist today.

As an adoptive mother and sibling, I feel so strongly that anybody considering adoption today needs to read accounts by adult adoptees and make sure she pursues adoption for the right reasons and in a manner that is set up 100% to benefit the child (and maybe not even just that one child, but children in general).

Although this book focuses on adoption, most people have experienced or will experience losses in their life, and this book will resonate triumphantly within the heart and soul of any reader.


Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

28 responses to “I Found A Memoir About Loss

  1. My sister adopted a family of four, so I am always interested in books about the experience. I will tell her about this one too.

    • It’s a phenomenal book for anybody to read. It doesn’t need to be someone involved in adoption. But I think for adoptive parents it’s a must-read.

  2. This sounds like an emotional read, Luanne. I think Blackbird would be a good read as well. I’ll bet the scene in the car was very moving.
    Thanks again for an excellent review! xo

  3. Another one for the TBR list!

  4. Have you seen the movie Philomena? It deals with an adoption in Ireland 50+ years ago. Fascinating story based on true events:


    • No, but I know about it and want to see it. Thank you for the link. I don’t do Netflix (at least not yet) and don’t go to movie theatres, as a rule (once a year, maybe). I wonder if it will come to one of my movie channels? I fear it will break my heart.

  5. excellent review Luanne! now I want to read it 🙂

  6. I need a month of rainy Sundays to read all these books. How do you find the time? Envious in Ottawa.

    • Haha, S. I just read this book, but some of the books, as you know, are ones I read in the past. Just going through my shelves, one by one, and then eagerly putting a new one forward when I like it. You might want to put this one at the top of your list because of your kids. xo

  7. Another memoir that I am definitely adding to my list. The loss element is a key piece for my own memoir so I am curious on how she navigates it. Thanks, Luanne.

    • It’s really wonderful. She also has a fair amount about parenting in the midst of what she is going through emotionally, and I think that will resonate with you, Rudri.

  8. Holy crap, Luanne, I just read this book over the past 3 days (on your recommendation) and I was not disappointed! I will put up one of my “sort of reviews” next but I just wanted to let you know and to thank you! I felt that the “loss” part was dealt with as inevitable by-product of a flawed institution, and I enjoyed how she wrapped it all up!

    • Jaye, so glad you weren’t disappointed! I figured it was one I ought to tell you about right away! Yes, a very flawed institution. Well put. xo

  9. Looks fascinating. I’ll put it on my to-read list!

  10. I learned a little about memoir writing from the way you highlighted Jennifer Lauck’s “guide posts” that would take her back into her childhood. Also, the other part I learned will be passed on to my stepson, Chad and his wife, Megan. They adopted an African American baby, from Cleveland, Ohio, took her back to a small southeastern town in Ohio. Megan has learned how to braid her hair, introduces all kind of cultural books, to help her little toddler, now, to know her ancestry. I have recently found out that the town they live in is not always open to children ‘of color.’ I am so glad that you also included this in the story, since it is important to note that environment is important and awareness of culture for adoptive parents is also. Thanks for this, Luanne!

    • Robin, thank you so much for telling me this! Your stepson and his wife sound like me back in the day. The good intentions of introducing the child to the culture of her background, but perhaps not going that extra step when the environment isn’t that diverse. There is an important Facebook group, if they are on facebook, which is at first a hard pill to swallow for adoptive parents, but provides a real awakening about serious issues for transracial families by adoption. https://www.facebook.com/groups/454175457988230/
      Also, there is a good blogger who is white and has African American children by adoption. Robyn Chittister at http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/hello-im-robyn-chittister/ She brings up a lot of issues that are important for her family.
      I’ve been looking for your email, but I can’t find it now. What did I do with it?

      • Do I have it on my gravatar page? I am not sure, but my email is reocochran@hotmail.com. I have to warn you, I have thousands of emails, since I have not figured out why my comments are all going there. I specifically don’t want them to go to my email. I just go back and check other people’s posts to see if I should add a thought to my already commented response. If you send me a note, as this may be beneficial in the future, please leave me a reply on a recent post. I think these two things you shared may help other people, too. If you end up deleting them, I appreciate your sharing and I did copy them both down! Thanks, Luanne!

  11. Pingback: Put down what you’re reading and find Jennifer Laucks (book) Found. | jayesbrain

  12. Luanne, I haven’t read all the comments here so please forgive me if someone already wondered about this. I have a friend (about my age, late 50s) who was adopted when she was 2 or 3. Although her adoptive father loved her, the rest of her family is a different story. Late in life, she found her biological mother, although by then her mother had died from cancer. Still, understanding why she was given up was important to her (and also that she looks very much like her biological mother). Anyway, I’m wondering if this book would be a good one for her to read. I know she still has issues with abandonment, so I’m not sure if she would appreciate knowing what someone else went through or if it would upset her. I guess I should just ask her 🙂

    • Marie, although I can’t remember who recommended this book to me, I think it was an adoptee. If your friend wants to read books about adoption, this would be an excellent one to start with because not only is it extremely well-written, it isn’t a picture of perfection for an adoptee in recovery (meaning after they find a birth parent or birth family). While every adoptee has a different story, this one explores in depth the panoply of emotions surrounding the feelings of loss and abandonment. And it’s not one of those stories where the adoptee finds her birth mother and suddenly everything is a Disney movie ending. When the birth mother has died, as in your friend’s case, there is yet another layer of abandonment. Lauck’s book knows about those layers (although she did find her living birth mother). I would ask your friend if she wants to read it. It’s maybe very well help to find others who have gone through similar experiences.

      • Thanks, Luanne. I will ask my friend if she would be interested. I think she would but it is hard to know sometimes since the wounds of being abandoned still run deep.

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