Category Archives: Book Reviews

Reviews of all kinds of books related to orphan care.

Lee & Me: What I Learned from Parenting a Child with Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

lee & me

By Wendy Border Gauntner
Amazon’s review
I have chosen to share this with you because I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to experience the juxtaposition of deep and abiding love for a child and not have that love reciprocated through easy, peaceful obedience. I have endured long, exhausting days of arguing, meltdowns and volatility. I have struggled to keep my composure and have wept with my son as he purged the deepest wounds that have broken the family chain of a thousand generations.

In her own version of Roadmap to Holland, Wendy learns that there is a precarious balance between honoring a child’s difficult past and the present task of developing a confident, well-adjusted child in today’s world.

Lee and Me: What I Learned from Parenting a Child with Adverse Childhood Experiences is one mother’s heartwarming story of personal experiences and lessons learned while raising her son who was adopted from Korea.

Part memoir, part instruction manual, part humorous inclusion in a club no one advertises, and part guide to regaining one’s own center in the midst of all the chaos, you will learn about:
• Early experiences, such as adoption, and potential effects on brain development and behavior;
• Working within the school system to create a positive educational environment through effective advocacy for your individual child;
• Therapeutic parenting strategies for complex needs;
• Assessing alternative therapies and interventions;
• Acknowledgement of the emotional impact of child behaviors on parents, and the differences between pampering and self-care;
• Mindful awareness of your own thoughts about your parenting situation, and how to address them.

Exhausted, frustrated and desperate parents — of adoptive, foster and stepchildren, or any child who has had a history of early separation or trauma – will find themselves laughing, crying and knowing they are not alone.

I ended up liking this book quite a bit. At first I found it hard to relate because I don’t have a child who needed this much attention and love, but I found myself drawn into her story. The authors “realness” was attractive. I could relate to wanting and striving to be the perfect mother, to do it all right. The feelings and emotions that she shared fit all mothers who are doing their best and yet feeling like failures.

Mrs. Gaunter had a lot of ideas on how and where to find help for you child. She shared her struggles with finding the right therapies and the right situations for her son. I think for someone adopting an older child these would be very helpful.

Overall I would give this book 4.5 stars.

The Eye of Adoption: The True Story of My Turbulent Wait for a Baby book review

The Eye of Adoption: The True Story of My Turbulent Wait for a Baby

Jody Cantrell Dyer

 

From Amazon:

“No one just adopts.” From the very first steps of acknowledging adoption as a choice to the final document that seals the deal, Jody Cantrell Dyer paints a raw, warm, heartbreaking and eventually triumphant portrayal that narrates the entire adoption process through compassionate and humorous prose. Dyer’s candor and soul color each page of The Eye of Adoption. She directly addresses the sorrows of infertility and the demands of adoption while consistently word-weaving a life rope of assurance, humor, and optimism for her readers. A middle-aged wife, mother, and teacher, Dyer “tells it like it is” in hopes that waiting adoptive parents, birthparents, adoptees, and those close to them will find kinship through her story

 

I got this book on a “free for today” deal on Amazon. I set it aside until I was out of “anything better” to read. I was sure I wouldn’t like it. Boy was I wrong. I really enjoyed this book.  I loved Jody’s writing style. I found myself drawn into her story and I absolutely identified with her personality and struggles. Dyer didn’t hold anything back, the good, the bad, the ugly and the real, she wrote about them all. Jody story is both poignant and humorous. By the end I wanted to be Jody’s friend and share a cup of coffee and swap adoption stories.  

 

Jody is so very candid about how open adoption looked for them. It brought up a lot of memories of when our kids were young and we were navigating open adoption. I love how she cared for their son’s birthmom. She also shared the extended birth families’ story. So often that isn’t heard. We hear about the birth-mom’s struggles and sometimes the birth-father’s but almost never the extended families. I know our extended birth families shared many similarities to Dyer’s.

 

Favorite Quotes:

“Friends and family should not underestimate how such a systematic dose of failure hurts. I spent six years, wasted thousands of dollars, and humiliated my husband and myself trying to have  a second child while people all around me easily became pregnant-or so it felt to me. I suffered bouts of anxiety and depression, often related to high doses of hormones and fertility drugs. I wrestled self-doubt, weight gain, poor self-esteem, mood swings and bitterness towards pregnant people.”

 

“You are possibly the closest thing Kerrie has ever known to Jesus,” Mark assured us. I questioned, “Huh” So I ‘ve completed two years of paperwork, an eighty-two item to do list, gotten a Rabies shot for Buzz, and now I have to be Jesus?”

 

(After her son’s birth) “I wanted to grab him and go home. He was born. Alive. Real. He was no longer eight hard years away. He was twenty feet down the hall. Even so, he still evaded me. I had no power”

 

“Our visitors felt nothing but exuberance over this long awaited baby’s arrival. But Jeff and I had just endured something traumatic and could not quite celebrate with the same uninhibited enthusiasm. We enjoyed introducing Scotty as our son, but Kerri’s rights were not yet terminated and would not be for days. We were home, but not home free.”

 

“All along, I knew that if Kerri changed her mind, I as a mother, though heartbroken, would understand why.”
“Kerry texted me, “I justed wanted you to know that he is yours. I know my time is almost up and didn’t want you to worry another minute. I could not have picked better parents for my child. I know I did the right thing.” I sat, stunned by how, while drowning in her own grief, she threw me a rope of thoughtfulness and compassion. “

Dreams of My Mothers: A Story of Love Transcendent book review

Dreams Of My Mothers: A Story Of Love Transcendent

by Joel L. A. Peterson

Dreams of My Mothers is based on the true story of two mothers’ transcendent love for the same boy. It is a love that reaches across the globe, propels them and him on a riveting and unimaginable path of transformation and triumph. It is a story that will speak to everyone who reads it; a story that tells us that love alone is not enough. Transcendent love is exceptionally rare, requiring sacrifice beyond normal boundaries, a faith beyond all doubts, and most of all, the courage to dream beyond all hope.

From the Author

I wrote my novel, Dreams of My Mothers, because I have been privileged to bear witness to some very unique circumstances and experiences, at extreme ends of the human condition and at the margins of the American saga. I wanted to share some of these in a way that truly brings the reader inside each experience and each moment as if they were the character going through it.

 

But, at a time when our society seems to be struggling to find a shared identity – with race, culture, and what it means to be American – I also wrote the book because it reveals deep, unique insight, adding to the social discourse through a topic – multiracialism within transnational and transracial adoption – that rarely gets much attention from any quarter, because it represents such a niche subset of our society, yet contains within it all the most relevant, timeless, and deeply felt – and held – human themes, passions, values, insecurities, tragedies, and judgments…and loves.

 

Love One Child’s review

Another 5 star book! I was shocked when I realized this was Mr. Peterson’s debut book. It was amazingly written. It drew me in and distracted me from getting things done until I had finished it. Peterson gives such an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be adopted as an older child.  If you only read one adoption story this year I would recommend you read this one. 

More Than “I” Can Handle: One Family’s Story of Trusting God Through the Impossible Book review

More Than “I” Can Handle: One Family’s Story of Trusting God Through the Impossible

By Eileen Mestas

Wow! What an inspiring story. When you look at the cover of the book and see her large family it’s easy to assume that the Mestas must have the resources to enable them to have a family of this size. Or that they must be super amazing people to be able to handle that many children. Instead you find yourself drawn into the story of their lives. You find yourself wanting to see God move in your life the way He has in theirs.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was Eileen’s honesty. She speaks honestly and openly about the struggles they faced; infertility, a near divorce, alcohol abuse, financial problems, and more. Mestas writes about how God wooed her to Himself and how she learned to listen to his voice.  Learning to hear His voice and obeying it is a theme in this book. Often God asked the Mestas family to obey when it would be most difficult to do so, and yet they did. Over and over Eileen shares how God met their needs and honored their obedience. I found myself wondering if I would have been that obedient and at the same time wanting the blessing that comes from that kind of faith.

 

Eileen’s writing style draws the reader in and makes you want to read “just a few more pages”. Her personality, her life, and her Love for Jesus shine through. Because the Mestas have adopted domestically, internationally, hosted an “aged out” young man, and started an orphan care ministry this book will appeal to a lot of different readers. This book really demonstrates that obedience and dependence on Jesus is the only way you can “handle” adoption and orphan care. I think Eileen accomplished what she set out to do when she sat down to write the story of how her family came to be.

5 STARS

No Matter What Book Review

No Matter What: An Adoptive Family’s Story of Hope, Love and Healing

by Sally Donovan

‘I love you, no matter what.’

An uplifting true story of an ordinary couple who build an extraordinary family, No Matter What describes how Sally and Rob Donovan embark upon a journey to adopt following a diagnosis of infertility.

Sally Donovan brings to life with characteristic wit and honesty the difficulties of living with infertility, their decision to adopt and the bewildering process involved. Finally matched with young siblings Jaymey and Harlee, Sally and Rob’s joy turns to shock as they discover disturbing details of their children’s past and realise that they must do everything it takes to heal their children.

By turns tragic, inspiring and hilarious, Sally and Rob’s story offers a rare insight into the world of adoptive parents and just what it takes to bring love to the lives of traumatised children.

My Review

Loved this book. Sally Donovan was a very type ‘A’ woman whose world was turned upside down by the needs of her new children. Donovan was honest about the fatigue and depression that overcame her and about how she healed. Any one who has fostered or adopted a child from a hard place can relate to the looks and comments from outsiders, and sometimes your own family.  Donovan became a true “mama bear” and fought for her kids. I think her willingness to fight for her kids is one of the reasons her kids did so well.  Another must read.

Quote from the book

” Eight years ago I wouldn’t have dared to hope Rob and I would have lives bubbling full of family, let alone be spending a hot July afternoon witnessing our children’s hard-won successes. Jamie and Rose have been gifted to us and they have changed everything; they have filled that empty, gaping hole in our lives and so much more- their love, their pasts and futures. They brought with them the bumps and scrapes to their selves and we have been charged with learning to accept and soothe them, to coax  the damaged parts back to life, to calm their fractured nerves, to show them a life that they deserve and have a right to. They have shaped us just as radically as we have shaped them. We have had to shed so many expectations to learn to do things differently, to be brave, not afraid to stand away from the crowd – the only way to create the right growing conditions to allow Jamie and Rose to flourish. “

Four Little Waifs On Our Doorstep book review

Four Waifs On Our Doorstep

By Trisha Merry

Amazon’s summary

At eleven o’ clock one night in 1997, four hungry, damaged young children arrive on foster carers Trisha and Mike Merry’s doorstep. Two social workers dropped them off with nothing but the ragged clothes they were wearing and no information. The children were covered in bruises, two had black eyes, one had a broken arm and they were all scratching themselves.

Starved, seriously neglected and abused in every way, four young siblings have been repeatedly overlooked by everyone who should have cared. The eldest scavenges for food by night and is exhausted from trying to protect his sisters, his baby brother and himself from serious parental neglect and the perilous attentions of frequent paedophile visitors.

From the start, these four children challenge Trisha and Mike to extremes. Despite all their experience over many years, they wonder if they have met their match. Yet, from that very first night, this couple’s unbounded love and care and their unbelievable determination surmount all the obstacles that follow. The shocking truth about the children’s home lives is beyond anything Trish and Mike have experienced, yet through their formidable efforts, their unshakeable belief in the children, and their (almost) unfailing sense of humour, they are able to turn around four young lives from tragedy to hope.

My Review

I really enjoyed this true story.  Merry had been a foster parent for many years.  She and her husband had provided care to over 700 children in their home.  Finally reaching retirement age she and her husband purchased a home and began to renovate it.  Their hope was to eventually open a bed and breakfast.  That is until “fate” intervened and they decided to use the skills they had learned from the past 700 children to help just a few more.  What follows is a moving story of healing, hope and hurt too. Merry is honest in her portrayal of life with these children and with the local child services. It was a moving book, well written, and very honest.  A great read. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

 

“As the weeks turned into months and things slowly edged forward, I reached the stage where I knew I would fight tooth and claw to keep these children, and woe betide anyone who tried to stop me! ”

This quote is during a season where the oldest son has run away.

“It was depressing texting him every week and hardly ever hearing back from him. But then I would think back to that first night, when they arrived on our doorstep. It wasn’t their fault. It’s not their fault, I thought, and it’s not my fault either. So instead of beating myself up about all the mistakes I’d made along the way, I just kept trying. ”

This one is from the end of the book, where Merry is looking back.

“A lot of people who hardly knew me, and a few who did, were only too keen to judge me in the bad times. Each of our children, when they ran away, did so not because of anything we did, but to avoid the consequences of what they did. They are all now back in our lives, not because we got it wrong, but because we got it right. They are in our lives because they want to be…and they’re really lovely people. I am proud of them all. I really am. We both are. “

Bringing Lucy Home Book Review

Bringing Lucy Home By Jennifer Phillips

Amazon’s summary
An orphan, abandoned and alone. A family, comfortable and secure. A shaky step of faith. An unprecedented complication. A heartbreaking separation. An unyielding quest.
A love story that is every Christian’s story.
Bringing Lucy Home shares the compelling drama of one family’s relentless pursuit to bring hope into the life of an orphaned baby girl. In itself, this account would merely duplicate the narratives of other adoptive families. However, Jennifer Phillips’ journey unexpectedly detoured into heartache, causing indefinite separation from her husband and three biological children.
Her struggle with bureaucratic injustice will make you want to call a politician – and many did just that. Yet, in the end, it was not political or legal pressure that reunited this family. God’s hand was at work, using every disappointment to teach a young mother about His unrelenting love.
Join the thousands who have walked alongside Jennifer and Lucy as they tried to reunite with their family. Jennifer’s humor and vulnerability will captivate your heart and transform her story into your story as your eyes are opened to deep gospel truths that are only unearthed in the soil of suffering.
You were lost. You were pursued. You are worth whatever it costs to bring you home, for good.
My review
I really really wanted to like this book. It is written in a journal style, which can be hard to read but I can usually get past that. I loved the story of their adoption. Like most, if not all, adoption stories it was moving. That being said I got stuck on the second half of the book. The Phillips family was living overseas when they adopted their daughter, Lucy, from China. In order to get her US citizenship they needed to fly from China to the US before returning to Australia. Unfortunately when they got to the US Lucy’s paperwork did not go through as smoothly as it should have. Mrs. Phillips’ family had to return to Australia while she remained in the US. This is the point where I had to just put the book down. I can understand that being separated from your family, while caring for a new little one, is stressful. But Mrs. Phillips wasn’t alone in a foreign country, she was with her extended family in her home country. Her extended family rallied around her providing support in all areas. At this point it felt like the author turned to whining. I too have fought bureaucracy to get my child home, but page after page of “poor me” was just too much. I had to put the book down. If you’re looking for a good adoption story I would look elsewhere.

Lee & Me: What I Learned from Parenting a Child with Adverse Childhood Experiences

lee and me

From the author,
I have chosen to share this with you because I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to experience the juxtaposition of deep and abiding love for a child and not have that love reciprocated through easy, peaceful obedience. I have endured long, exhausting days of arguing, meltdowns and volatility. I have struggled to keep my composure and have wept with my son as he purged the deepest wounds that have broken the family chain of a thousand generations.

Online review
In her own version of Roadmap to Holland, Wendy learns that there is a precarious balance between honoring a child’s difficult past and the present task of developing a confident, well-adjusted child in today’s world.

Lee and Me: What I Learned from Parenting a Child with Adverse Childhood Experiences is one mother’s heartwarming story of personal experiences and lessons learned while raising her son who was adopted from Korea.

Part memoir, part instruction manual, part humorous inclusion in a club no one advertises, and part guide to regaining one’s own center in the midst of all the chaos, you will learn about:
• Early experiences, such as adoption, and potential effects on brain development and behavior;
• Working within the school system to create a positive educational environment through effective advocacy for your individual child;
• Therapeutic parenting strategies for complex needs;
• Assessing alternative therapies and interventions;
• Acknowledgement of the emotional impact of child behaviors on parents, and the differences between pampering and self-care;
• Mindful awareness of your own thoughts about your parenting situation, and how to address them.

Exhausted, frustrated and desperate parents — of adoptive, foster and stepchildren, or any child who has had a history of early separation or trauma – will find themselves laughing, crying and knowing they are not alone.

My review
I ended up liking this book quite a bit. At first I found it hard to relate because I don’t have a child who needed this much attention and love. As I read on I found myself drawn into her story. The authors realness was attractive. I could relate to wanting and striving to be the perfect mother, to do it all right. The feelings and emotions that she shared fit all mothers who are doing their best and yet feeling like failures. I could also relate to giving so much of yourself and not having it reciprocated.

Mrs. Gaunter had a lot of ideas on how and where to find help for you child. She shared her struggles with finding the right therapies and the right situations for her son. I think for someone adopting an older child these would be very helpful.

Overall I would give this book 4.5 stars.