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.