Mother Mother by Jessica O’Dwyer (Review by Madhura Mukhopadhyay)

1 min read

Rating: 4/5

Julie is a museum art curator, a loving wife to Mark and a doting sister to Claire. However, her life is meaningless until she can become a parent. Having ruled out the possibility of ever being a biological parent, Julie desperately searches for her perfect child through adoption in Guatemala, only to experience the exhausting and labyrinthine process faced by so many would-be parents each year.

Mother Mother by Jessica O’Dwyer is a story about Julie’s harrowing experience navigating the bureaucracies of two countries in order to bring her child home. Although this book is fiction, surely O’Dwyer who herself is mom to two Guatemalan kids, has drawn from her experience with the hopes and challenges that come with international adoption.

As Julie’s narrative unfolds, we simultaneously read about Rosalba, an indigenous Ixil Mayan woman who gives up her baby to an adoption agency with the hope that he will have a secure future with adoptive parents in the US. Through Rosalba, we learn about the terrors of the Guatemalan civil war and the horrific violence perpetrated against the native Ixil populace. I especially loved reading about this since, as with so much of history, the events have been chronicled to suit the victors.

A significant theme of this book is race. As white parents to a child of another race, Julie and Mark are suddenly thrust into this conversation. Appalled, they try to field impolite personal questions from friends and family. I felt it would have been interesting here if the author had written about how these events led Julie and Mark to reexamine their own unconscious bias and the challenges that come from being a person of color in America today.

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