Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell

"Will you take her?" she asks.
 When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the greatest challenges of Russell's life.
Russell, watching in disbelief as Alex distances herself from the child, cares for the baby -- clothing, bathing, and feeding her -- and makes her feel secure in the unfamiliar surroundings. Russell is overwhelmed and disoriented by the unfolding drama and all that she sees in China, and yet amid the emotional turmoil finds herself deeply bonding with the child. She begins to have dreams of an ancient past -- dreams of a young woman who is plucked from the countryside and chosen to be empress, and of the child who is ultimately taken from her. As it becomes clear that her friend -- whose indecisiveness about the adoption has become a torment -- won't be bringing the baby home, Russell is amazed to realize that she cannot leave the baby behind and that her dreams have been telling her something significant, giving her the courage to open her heart and bring the child home against all odds.
Steeped in Chinese culture, Forever Lily is an extraordinary account of a life-changing, wholly unexpected love.
Beth Nonte Russell received a master's degree in psychology from Marymount University and provided counseling services at a community mental health center. She lives with her husband and two daughters, Lily and Jaden, outside Washington, D.C.
This book was not what I expected it to be.  When I received the review request for this one, I was excited.  It has been a while since I've had opportunity to review an adoption-related book here on my blog; and I do like to make sure that I have adoption content here to share - especially with people who may be contemplating adoption and looking for reading material.
I know, from our times in Vietnam, that situations like the one portrayed in this book really do happen.  To me, it seems unreal and impossible.  But, I've heard tales of mothers who rejected their new babies because the baby bonded with the father and not the mother; or, like the perspective adoptive mother in this  book, the baby "just wasn't what they expected".  It seems ridiculous to me, though.  I will admit that, when I first laid eyes on Gracie, she wasn't what I expected either - her face was covered in a rash and her head was mishapen (due to bottle propping).  But, within a matter of minutes, she was mine; and I could have never given her up!  So, though I'm sure the author meant to portray Alex in a light that would make us question her motives, I'm left with many questions that went unanswered in the pages of the book.  What was wrong with the baby that she could just decide that she didn't want her?
I enjoyed the China-adoption-related storylines in this book.  The Chinese culture, the adoption trip itself, the trip the see the baby's orphanage, etc. - I found that all extremely interesting and was able to tie it with similarities of my own Vietnam adoption adventures.  I appreciated Beth's descriptions of her feelings for this baby - how quickly she was able to feel a bond with her and the  strong desire in her heart to make this baby her own.
However, as most of my readers are Christians, I need to point out that this is NOT a Christian book.  Actually, I'm not sure exactly what religion this book would tie into.  There are references to praying, and there's a time that God is mentioned (with a capital "G"), but Buddha is also mentioned, chatting with a "spiritual advisor", meditation, etc. along with some other ideas that are just very foreign to me as a Christian.  Throughout the story, Beth shares dream sequences.  All along, I thought that her dreams seemed a bit too vivid to be real, and I found myself actually skimming over  them, or skipping them altogether at times. The dreams were just extremely odd.  Toward the end of the book, you find out that she believes that these dreams are actually remembrances of a past life that she lived.  Hello?!  I just don't buy that. 
Because of the things mentioned in the previous paragraph, I will not be inclined to recommend this book.

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