Even before we adopted, I loved hearing and reading birth and adoption stories. I always found something so fascinating about the way a child arrived into a particular life. Imagine my thrill then, when the latest book I received to review featured a luminous storyteller writing about love, friendship, and destiny through the experience of adopting a son from Cambodia .
Kari Grady Grossman's Bones That Float: a Story of Adopting Cambodia (Wild Heaven Press, 2007) is my favorite type of book- impossible to put down and haunting long past its end. From the first page, the reader is drawn in by powerful questions such as: why do certain children come into certain parents' lives? how profound is the transformative power of parenthood? and how can love make up for loss?
It's in the mystical journey these questions inspire that Grady Grossman's writing weaves three stories. In one, Kari and her husband long for a child and eventually adopt Ratanak from Cambodia ; the couple travels, photographs and experiences the country, and lets its history begin to sink into them. After they return to the U.S. , they struggle to give their son the best of both U.S. and Cambodian cultures and to determine what their duty is towards their son's first country and family. In another, the reader follows Amanda/ Maly Prom, a Cambodian refugee and dear friend to the Grady Grossman family, as her family suffers and survives the violent rule of the Khmer Rouge, and eventually emigrates to rebuild a life in the western U.S. In a third, the reader follows Sovann, Kari's moto driver and eventual friend and employee, and glimpses what it might be like to make a life in this ravaged country with no possible escape. It's these three stories which add amazing depth to this memoir of adoption and go such a long way in helping the reader understand the hypnotic horror and hope Cambodia has to offer in an intimate and unforgettable way.
Each of Grady Grossman's chapters begin with an epigraph, but the one that sticks with me the most as I consider her work is: Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one's courage, attributed to Anais Nin. To adopt internationally and write this story is courageous, but what is most courageous of Grady Grossman is her continuing effort at making a difference in Cambodia . By founding the Grady Grossman School in the Chrauk Tiek village, by donating a generous percentage of the proceeds of her book and by remaining engaged with her son's birth country and culture, she brings education, possibility, and hope to those facing dismal poverty, government corruption, and environmental destruction in her expanded world.
I offer Bones That Float high praise and believe this spellbinding story deserves a place on every bookshelf, as a book that makes its reader aware of the reach of love, as well as of the connections between all citizens of the world.
Violeta Garcia-Mendoza is a Spanish-American poet and writer living in Pennsylvania . She and her husband are parents to a toddler son and daughter, both adopted as infants from Guatemala . Her website is www.TurnPeoplePurple.com .
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