Strays and Relations is a book about an adopted woman tracing her birth family. As an adopted person myself I was interested to read it and finished the whole book in just two sittings.
This book was inevitably very close to home for me particularly as the birth mother was an Irish Roman Catholic. The birth family had different strands to it too much as my own birth family did. Even in less momentous ways, I felt a link to the main character from the fact that her birth mum was based in Yorkshire where I was brought up right down to the description of her baby’s “upturned nose”. I had literally read the same description in my own adoption file only a week before reading this book. Life moves in very mysterious and meaningful ways sometimes.
Of course the story in this book is not mine. Every adoption story is an individual one. It is my belief being adopted is not a tragedy just a fresh start. Having said that I think adoption has a huge impact emotionally for all those involved including birth parents, adoptive parents, the adopted person, siblings, partners and friends.
Just as in my situation, there are different stages to locating the birth family in this story. At one point, the main character believes her mother to be deceased. I can remember being warned of such a potential eventuality when I first looked into my birth family in my twenties. I was pleased that she has support from a dear friend, her adoptive mum, her partner and her child.
Later the birth father surfaces and to me acts in a very strange way eventually bringing the birth mother and various siblings into the mix. I can see how this would be overwhelming emotionally. Adopted people often feel that they are not good enough. However logic says this is not the case, it is that feeling that comes from an early rejection whatever the sensible reasons for that letting go of a child.
I enjoyed this book a lot and found it to be a real page-turner partly because there really were so many strays and relations along the way both human and animal. The characters are well-drawn and I found myself particularly attracted to the birth mother and her daughters. I was less impressed with the birth father who I should point out does not stay with the birth mother. I would have liked to know the adoptive mother a little better too as I did not get a firm sense of her.
I have never seen myself as a stray but I can see the analogy drawn with animals in the book and the quirky Tuesday/Merlin dog in particular. There are angels masquerading as human beings out there who take on personalities who may be challenging but who ultimately deserve a second chance. You know some of us strays are quite special in our own right and add loads to the places and people we end up with. Not so long ago I would not have seen this so clearly.
The author comments;
“My novel is a fictional insight into what happens when birth and adoptive families meet – and when those families are from very different backgrounds.”
My adoptive family and birth family have never met. It is too late now. I am OK with that. I know my adoptive family were supportive of my search but did not really wish to meet my birth parents. As far as they were concerned, I was their child so I can see how meeting my birth parents would have been too much for them.
In conclusion, I highly recommend tis book. I hope the author will forgive me that I have referenced my own story in this review partly because I am right in the middle of searching actively for my birth father and establishing contact with new members of my birth mother’s family.
If you are intrigued by adoption or have experience of it, I think you will enjoy this book. In any event, I think it is a jigsaw puzzle of life as many of our stories are and worth a read adopted or not.
ISBN: 9781788039345 Price: £10.99