Every family's journey to parenthood is unique, and that's particularly true when it comes to families that choose foreign adoption. In The Red Thread, Ann Hood (The Knitting Circle) explores the reasons and reactions different couples have in the course of adopting children from China.
Maya Lange opened The Red Thread, an adoption agency for people wishing to adopt from China, after she lost her own child in a freak accident, a story she keeps to herself. Hood’s narrative follows a group of couples as they make their way through the adoption process.
There's the famous retired baseball player and his wife, both of whom worry that a child will ruin their relationship; the type-A mom-to-be who wants her child now, if not sooner; the woman who wants loads of children—her own and adopted kids—but whose husband ran away when his last girlfriend got pregnant; the couple with a biological child with a congenital health problem who long for a healthy child; the woman struggling with a series of miscarriages and the difficult relationship with her stepdaughter; and Lange herself, who thinks she's finally ready to let love into her life again nine years after her first child's death.
The individual family stories feel a little bit clichéd—desperate women, ambivalent (or worse) husbands—and the fairy tale ending of the book will leave readers wanting a sequel that explores the reality of integrating adopted children into families with other children, or into the life of a single mom just starting to open herself up to other people after a long stagnant period.
Readers who are at all familiar with foreign adoption will have trouble suspending disbelief at how smooth and quickly things go for these families. The timeline is truncated, and at least a couple of the characters who adopt wouldn't be able to do so under China's current regulations.
But for readers who don't know a lot about foreign adoption or why a couple might choose to go that route, the book is illuminating and heartwarming. The stories of the Chinese women who gave up the adopted girls add another layer to the story that many people might not think about: these children were loved by the women who left them behind, and it was a huge sacrifice leave the children with an unknowable future.
The Red Thread reminds readers of the joy and magic that come with welcoming a new life into your world, even if that life originally came from thousands of miles away.
Sarah E. White writes from Arkansas and is a friend of two families that have grown through the adoption of children from Asia.