It’s primal and close to universal — the need to nurture, to parent, to provide a safe haven for a child while opening doors to the world beyond. Without that drive, in at least a fair-sized proportion of the human race, there would be no future, no hope. But when a couple wishes to do exactly that, in a healthy, stable, mature, reasoned way and biology fights back, it opens the door to painful longing and frustration beyond description. Jennifer Gilmore has found the words to voice that pain in her new novel that reads much like a memoir. After years of trying to conceive, using every bit of technology available to modern science, Jesse and Ramon, Gilmore’s young protagonist couple, decide to adopt and they embark on a journey with a whole new set of obstacles, frustrations, and agonizing choices. They navigate the muddy waters of the open adoption system acknowledging the angst without losing their senses of humor or their commitment to one another. They worry, as prospective parents generally do, about child-rearing issues: how their relationship will change, how to integrate extended family, what to do about religious identity in a mixed-religion marriage, what role the child’s birth mother will fill, all the while fearing that the deep, painful analysis of each issue may be for naught. Gilmore scrutinizes and dissects the open adoption system with its inconsistencies and its sometimes not-quite-above-board cast of characters but refrains from cynicism; too much hope resides in every word for real cynicism to take hold. When Jesse’s single sister announces her own unplanned pregnancy, all the issues are thrown into stark relief and emotions threaten to boil over but the hope, the deep, abiding, sincere, genuine hope, the hope that is a beacon in the uncertain darkness, never wanes.
The novel is based on Gilmore’s real-life experience with the open adoption system and the writing is so real, so immediate, at times so raw even in its poignant humor, that the reader goes through an emotional journey along with the characters, experiencing highs and lows, doubts and confidence, disappointment and relief. It’s the kind of reading-roller-coaster one experiences when reading a passionate love story and, although the object of the passion may be as yet unborn, this truly is a love story in so many subtle ways.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. She has lectured on a variety of topics relating to children and books and her greatest joy is reading to her grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. Michal lives in Great Neck, NY and Efrat, Israel.