Saturday, September 22, 2007

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 6

And just like that, suddenly, unexpectedly, I am done!

I had no intention of reading another book for this challenge for a while, wanting instead to work on the RIP II, as I stated before. However, I got a copy of Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell and read it all in one sitting, couldn't put it down, and decided it was a perfect fit. So here we are.


Russell was asked by a friend, Alex, to accompany her to China to help her pick up the baby she and her husband were adopting. While parents usually make the trip together, Alex's husband had to stay home to care for another child. Russell didn't know Alex all that well, but agreed to go anyway. In this offbeat memoir, Russell describes the trip. It wasn't long into it before she noticed signs of Alex's ambivalence— she'd brought no camera to document the baby's adoption, and she'd refused to spend more time in China than was absolutely necessary. Meanwhile, Russell was having heavily symbolic dreams: she was an empress of China pregnant with an illegitimate child who had to be given away for adoption. Before long, Alex confessed that she didn't want this baby after all, and Russell fell in love with the baby herself. In the end, Russell brought home the baby she felt she was meant to have. The foreshadowing's heavy-handed, the dreams perhaps too prescient and some apparitions—the Virgin Mary, no less— strain credulity. But spiritual-minded readers might embrace the concept of linking reincarnation, adoption and fate.

The book is part travelogue, part memoir, and part New Age "talking to my crystals and communing with the spirits" tome.

I really enjoyed the travelogue, it was really interesting to read one of the legends of the Great Wall of China, and to hear about the goings-on in Tiannenmen Square and the contrast between that and the Forbidden Palace. I also very much enjoyed reading about the everyday Chinese and the sights, sounds, and smells which they create and experience every day. Some of it had been explained to me by my sister and father, things I'd rather not thinking about like cages of rabbits, kittens, and puppies in the marketplace awaiting slaughter for fresh food. Other things, like the conditions inside the Chinese orphanages gave me pause.

As someone who is not finding the road parenthood as easy as she was previously led to believe, I've been hot on adoption for about 6 years now. We would never be eligible to adopt from China, but it was a very, very interesting read and I enjoyed reading about the ins and outs of adopting overseas in a foreign country where the reactions of the natives are varied and the headaches of trying to do everything in a land where you can't understand anything.

So, my journeys around the world on this challenge have taken me to the Pacific Northwest, Japan, China, Sweden, Denmark, England, Ireland, Egypt, Cape Cod, Italy, the American Southwest, and West Virginia. The only continents I didn't hit were Australia, South America, and Antartica. That may provide me some direction in future reading. Of the six books I said I would read when starting, only 2 made the cut for the final 6. Interesting!

Thanks, Lesley, for a great challenge!

5 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Melissa said...

Do you own this book? If so, I must borrow it!!!!!!

I too will never be able to adopt from China (no singles allowed - I suppose Ms. Right could show up at any time though...) but was very interested in a Chinese adoption for awhile. So are you not allowed b/c Michael is blind?

Kate/Susan said...

I do own this book! I'll put it aside for you and the mythical "someone special" who is out there somewhere! :)

Kate/Susan said...

OH, and yes, we're not allowed due to Michael's disability.

Talmadge G. said...

Pardon my bluntness, but that's completely fucked up.

Using that logic, then were sperm to meet egg and you become pregnant, you both should have to give up the baby.


Kate/Susan said...

I agree, but that's China for you! They also don't let fat people adopt. Strike 2. :-(