Adoption novel leaves too many holes
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.