Adop­tion novel leaves too many holes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE -

And not just about Sylvie.

De­ter­mined not to lose her dream of mother­hood, Eleanor asks the adop­tion agency what hoops she must jump through in or­der to pro­ceed with the adop­tion as a sin­gle par­ent.

The big­gest ob­sta­cle Eleanor faces is putting to­gether her sup­port net­work — who can she count on in an emer­gency?

With both par­ents dead and no sib­lings (Eleanor her­self is adopted), the clos­est per­son to Eleanor is her lone em­ployee, a fraz­zled mother of three boys who barely has time to tend to her own ap­pear­ance, let alone come to some­one else’s res­cue. Eleanor has only a few days to get her sup­port net­work in place or the adop­tion will fall through.

Af­ter a ran­dom en­counter in Pretty Baby with a preg­nant woman and her two mothers — one adop­tive mother, the other birth — Eleanor con­ceives a plan. Cue the search for the birth mother. It is un­clear if Co­hen hopes we will join Eleanor in think­ing that her yet-to-be­found birth mother is log­i­cally the best can­di­date to put for­ward as her sup­port sys­tem, or if we are to pity this young woman who may have just lost her hus­band, her baby girl, and her mind.

Af­ter all, any­one who has heard an adoptee’s story about their search for a birth par­ent knows that “ex­pe­di­tious” and “un­com­pli­cated” are the last de­scrip­tors that come to mind.

How­ever, we must buy into the ques­tion­able sce­nario as it is both in­te­gral to the rest of the story and nec­es­sary for the in­tro­duc­tion of Is­abelle, Co­hen’s search an­gel. Eleanor’s search for her birth mother also pro­vides Co­hen with a ve­hi­cle to probe fur­ther into the emo­tion­ally and psy­cho­log­i­cally com­plex ter­ri­tory of adop­tion.

How­ever, Co­hen seems re­luc­tant to probe this ter­ri­tory too deeply and even misses some beau­ti­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties she has cre­ated. Eleanor is a char­ac­ter who rep­re­sents both the adop­tive par­ent and the adoptee, and yet the unique per­spec­tive of this du­al­ity is left un­tapped.

We are privy to some of the long­ings, hurts, and fan­tasies Eleanor ex­pe­ri­ences as an adoptee, and yet “adop­tive-par­en­tEleanor” never takes the op­por­tu­nity to con­sider how she will han­dle any of the same — or dif­fer­ent — is­sues that may arise for her fu­ture daugh­ter.

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