Seal Press (November 2010)
Trade Paperback 312 pages
reviewed by Jo O’Neil
In the past fifteen years Americans have adopted more than 200, 000 children from overseas. Anyone who’s thinking of adopting a child from a foreign country must ─ not should ─put Jessica O‘Dwyer’s Mamalita on their reading list. It’s an informative, harrowing, and cautionary tale of the author’s quest to become the adoptive mother of a Guatemalan baby girl.
Ms. O’Dwyer reports with clarity and honesty. She doesn’t spare herself the eyebrow-raising surprise anyone who has dealt with overseas bureaucracy will experience as she reports her naiveté about how she and her husband got ‘suckered’ into walking through the crooked and arbitrary maze that’s part of every banana republic’s government, let alone adoption system. Yet, we’re with her every step of the way as her single-minded determination to bring her beloved daughter home overcomes all the horrific obstacles she encounters. As a mother and a woman, I empathized and applauded, as an editor, I was impressed.
However, I describe this as an ‘account’ because to me it reads more like that rather than like a ‘memoir’. The private parts of the author’s life ─ her feelings about her early menopause, her failed first marriage, her relationship with her new husband ─ though discussed, are related more as a backdrop rather than as an integral part of her story. That’s not a criticism, but an observation. If Ms. O’Dwyer’s goal is to be the voice of experience on overseas adoption, she achieves that very successfully with this well-written, carefully constructed tale. As a supporter of her cause, I admire that. As a reader, I would have liked her to have delved a bit more into her other experiences around this adoption, because those were the experiences that led her on her journey to the creation of this book.
All in all, an impressive 3 and ½ pasta plates. Visit Jessica O’Dwyer’s informative and lively blog on Guatemalan adoption at http://www.mamalitathebook.com Listen to HS Radio’s podcast interview with Jessica O’Dwyer, Cathy Edgett and Jane Flint:
. Watch Mamalita book trailer below:
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