Although I can’t recommend this book, I sure would like to find some readers who might want to discuss it. As it’s apparently a “national bestseller” – so touts the cover of the paperback edition – perhaps a few of you who have already read it might want to chat …?
Here’s the basic set up (warning: eye-rolling spoilers ahead) … Maya Lange runs the Red Thread Adoption Agency, connecting prospective American parents with abandoned Chinese girls. “In China, Maya wrote in her first brochure, there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. Who is at the end of your thread?” Maya has facilitated magical matches for hundreds of Chinese girls, and she’s working with her latest group of waiting parents: her close friend Emily who has suffered too many miscarriages, save-the-world Sophie whose cheating husband left the love of his life when she became inconveniently pregnant, entitled Nell with her John Adams-by-marriage pedigree who’s desperate to get the one thing she can’t have, mournful Susannah with her Fragile X-syndromed daughter, and determined Brooke with her overbearingly loving husband. Svengali-like Maya, who controls their immediate future, has secrets of her own – she creates happy families because she can’t have one of her own.
In between the complications of the overprivileged – Emily who’s less mature than her resentful, anorexic (but, of course!) stepdaughter, Nell who attempts to pay for priority matching, Theo who teaches American businessmen how to buy women in Thai – Hood offers brief glimpses of the Chinese mothers and daughters and their impending separations. As predictable as those faraway stories are – evil in-laws, a baby before marriage, an unlucky weaker twin – they seem far more sincere than the overwrought tribulations of the American parents-to-be.
Hood’s novel has an irresponsible glibness about it … a sense of ‘hey, it’s just fiction!’ And yet, the premise of transracial adoption is very real, and here it’s presented with entitlement and commodification. Whether intended or not, too many of Hood’s characters are failed parents frantic for redemption via replacement: a mother who resents her mentally and emotionally damaged daughter, another who blames herself for her baby daughter’s death, another who competes with her unpleasant stepdaughter, a father who abandons his daughter before she’s even born. Whether birthed or adopted, privileged or deprived, cherished or abandoned, all over the world the daughters suffer most of all.
Soap opera antics aside, Hood spins a fairy tale of unrealistic happy endings that are downright disturbing. With no disrespect intended at Hillary Huber’s fine narration, after surviving over 8.5 hours – disastrously rubbernecking-style – the story I would much rather read is that of Blossom, Jordan, Ella, Beatrice, and Honor Maile (that middle name belonging to a dead daughter – ‘honor the dead’? – oh good gawd!) in 10, 15, 20 years. Here’s hoping the daughters someday, somehow find their own true voices …