Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: Chosen

This is a book about adoption, and the difficulties faced by all of the parties involved. At the center of the story is Chloe Pinter, a low-paid adoption coordinator. She manages desperate adoptive parents and birth parents in difficult situations. Her personal life is also full of drama. Chloe's boyfriend is what one might call a 'fixer-upper'- he lacks a job, ambition, and spends most of his time complaining.

I thought the subject matter of this book might be very interesting, especially given that the author has worked in the field. That said, I did not enjoy this book very much. I found the characters ranged from annoying to downright offensive. Offensive and unlikeable characters can be useful, and certainly there's a place for them, but in this book nearly all of the characters are entirely unlikable. The only character for whom I could really feel empathy was the birth mother, Penny, who was forced to give up a baby she wanted to keep. The characters also lack depth; all of them seem incapable of engaging any sort of complex emotions, even when they find themselves in situations that should plumb the depths of the soul.

Reading this book was the closest I've come to the world of domestic adoption, and I must admit that there was a great deal I fond difficult. The heavy use of euphemism, such as asking the birth mother to claim that she's "giving the baby a new home" rather than "giving the baby up," struck me as erasing the suggestion of loss or sacrifice on the part of the birth mother. Indeed, of all of the characters in this story, it seemed as though the needs of Penny, the young and destitute birth mother, were largely ignored. Penny's financial needs were met, but her emotional needs were never part of the equation, at least as far as the agency was concerned. Among the adoptive parents there was a definite shared sense that white, American-born children were far more desirable. Thinking about all of the families I know whose children were adopted abroad, seeing this sentiment shamelessly on display really struck a nerve. If I was the parent of child adopted abroad I'm not at all sure I could have finished this book.

Hoffman is trying to show the complexities of domestic adoption, but ultimately I found the book too simplistic to really do the topic justice. The ending was far too neat and tidy to allow for complexity, and some of the characters were more like caricatures.

Chandra Hoffman, Chosen (Harper, 2010) ISBN: 0061974293

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