The Earth­quake Child: A Novel

September 1, 2021

Nature ver­sus nur­ture? For an adopt­ed child, espe­cial­ly a trou­bled child, ques­tions of iden­ti­ty can be haunt­ing. The Earth­quake Child tells the sto­ry of Joshua — a beau­ti­ful, lov­able boy adopt­ed soon after birth into a Jew­ish fam­i­ly. As he grows, Joshua’s high-risk behav­iors — act­ing out, run­ning away, and even­tu­al­ly becom­ing involved with drugs — dri­ve his adop­tive moth­er to despair. This nov­el of adop­tion is told through the voic­es of an adoptee, his des­per­ate young birth moth­er, and his lov­ing, but griev­ing adop­tive moth­er. Their voic­es will res­onate with those who have been part of the adop­tion tri­an­gle — adoptees, women who have relin­quished a child, and par­ents who have added a child to their fam­i­ly through adop­tion — as well as those who ques­tion what makes our chil­dren unique­ly who they are. The nov­el asks impor­tant ques­tions about the nature ver­sus nur­ture conun­drum — know­ing there are no sim­ple answers.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Elayne Klasson

  1. In what ways does Joshua man­i­fest his sweet­ness, as exem­pli­fied in the Bud­dha With­in Him chapter?

  2. In what ways is Eleanor clear-eyed about her son and in what ways do we see her kid­ding herself.

  3. Try to describe what fac­tors you see as nature in Joshua.

  4. Try to describe what fac­tors you see as nur­ture in Joshua.

  5. How do you think Joshua might have been dif­fer­ent had he had more time with Ron?

  6. What advice would you give to Eleanor before she sends him to Mount Rich­mond? Are there oth­er options she may not have considered?

  7. Explain what the epi­graph of this nov­el, tak­en from A.M. Homes, means to you. To be adopt­ed is to be ampu­tat­ed and sewn back togeth­er. Whether or not you regain full func­tion, there will always be scar tis­sue.” Why would there be scar tis­sue, if an adop­tion takes place at, or very close to birth?

  8. How can adop­tive par­ents be bet­ter pre­pared before and after they adopt.

  9. How close have you come, in your per­son­al expe­ri­ence, to any mem­bers of the adop­tion tri­an­gle: a birth moth­er who relin­quished her child, an adopt­ed child, or an adop­tive mother?

  10. Have your ideas about adop­tion changed in any way after read­ing The Earth­quake Child? What advice have you for par­ents who are con­tem­plat­ing adoption?