Ithaka is a beautifully written memoir of Sarah Saffian's search for her own identity. This story begins with an unexpected phone call to then-24-year-old Saffian; it is a call from her birth mother. Her birth mother's re-entry into her life creates much emotional chaos for the author, and raises many important questions about the definition of family. Saffian's birth parents begin to write her letters filled with heartfelt emotion, requesting her involvement in their lives and their new family. Their efforts are not entirely welcomed by the author or her adoptive parents and leave Saffian struggling with how to best manage everyone's feelings as well as deciding what is best for her. This poignant and revealing story takes us through the next four years of Saffian's life as she begins to correspond with her birth parents. One letter at a time, the reader is drawn into the emotions of the author as she sorts out what is to be her role among those who want to claim her as their daughter and their sister.

Saffian's description of how this story unfolds, through these letters, her diary, and her personal reflections, makes us understand the painful uncertainty of the journey she takes towards forming a clear identity. In telling her tale, we are taken back to her early life story: the discovery of her adoption; the death of her adoptive mother; her life as a young woman and writer; and ultimately, her reunion with her birth parents three years after the phone call.

With her honest and sensitive self-portrait, one can see that Saffian has much love in her heart as she attempts to come to terms with the people that make up what become to her, "family." The author's poetic language is complimented by the beauty of the actual book itself. The book's cover, graceful design, and evocative poems that introduce each chapter further indicate the depth of care which was taken to make Ithaka a book of thoughtful and compassionate expression.

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