Adopted reviewed in North & South


Adopted: Loss, love, family and reunion, the memoir by Jo Willis and Brigitta Baker about finding their respective birth families, was recently reviewed in the September issue of North & South. Reviewer Paul Little writes:

‘The belief is probably widespread that adoption today is a less traumatic, better handled issue than it was in the days of girls being sent up north for a while and forced to give babies away to strangers. And while that is true to some extent, in this account of their own experiences as children who were adopted, Willis and Baker are here to tell you that there is still a lot of damage to be undone.

Unique and daunting experiences come not just with adoption but also with reunion. There are so many ways something could go wrong when you meet your parents as an adult.

Willis and Baker had similar yet vastly different reunion experiences, involving much trauma, misunderstanding, self-discovery and, eventually, love won and shared.

Willis’s process involved a lot of questing in her self-exploration journey. Journaling, Jung and Joseph Campbell all came into it.

For her, therapy worked. Unusually, although probably not uniquely, it was her paternal grandmother, not the mother who had given her up, who began the search for Willis.

Baker’s experience was more straightforward but no less compelling and inspirational. She showed remarkable detection skills in finding the answers to the mystery of her own origins.

Reference is made to the healing power of stories, a claim that is often made all too glibly. But even readers who weren’t adopted will learn a lot from these women’s tales. In fact, for someone who does not know their birth parents, it is not just the contact but the stories about them that they crave. What happened? Why was I given up? Who was my father? Am I like you?

In the book’s latter sections, we hear useful context from other family members who have been affected by these adoptions: grandparents, siblings, partners and other children.

New Zealand’s adoption laws are currently under review. This book should be read by everyone who might have a part in that process.’