Chosen by Chandra Hoffman

Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen arrived as an unsolicited review copy a few weeks ago from Harper Collins, and I wasn’t sure when I would get to it.  Any book that promises to examine the adoption issue from all angles is definitely high on my list of books to be read, but it was this review of Chosen by novelist Laurie Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho and the newly released Substitute Mewhich intrigued me enough to pick up my copy and start reading.

Chosen chronicles the lives of three couples.   John and Francie are an older wealthy couple, Francie desperate to adopt a child after several failed in vitro fertilization procedures; Paul and Eva, are college sweethearts who turn to adoption when faced with their own fertility problems, eventually going on conceive a child of their own; and Jason and Penny, a down and out couple whose baby will change the lives of one expectant couple, while wreaking havoc on their own.  Connecting the trio of couples is Chloe Pinter, the idealistic social worker whose own troubled family history leads her to make a career out of creating the perfect family.

I haven’t had much experience with adoption, and don’t know any of the intricacies of the process other than from the perspective of some friends of mine who are in the process of adopting from another country. I have heard the horror stories about black market adoptions, and how hard it is to adopt in this country – especially when seeking to adopt a healthy white baby, so this novel was definitely an eye opener of insight into the workings of private adoptions, and the lives of the different participants. Chosen is a compelling read, and even though my feelings for the characters and the actions undertaken by them still require some sorting on my part, it was hard to put this book down for any length of time. It is haunting in that it has stayed with me for several days after I finishing it.

Most of the characters are well drawn. I like the way that we get to see the genesis of the couples and the quality of their relationships, but a few of them didn’t quite hit the mark. I reached to understand them, but failed to truly do so in a few instances. I also wanted to hear more from John since he is the only one of the seven to never have his perspective shared and explored.

Hoffman doesn’t shy away from the desperate circumstances that force people to consider and ultimately place their children with other families. The details about what the expenses the agency pays, when they sever responsibility, and the business of bringing in clients and birth mothers were uncomfortable to contemplate and in some cases appalling. The online culture of the moms trying to adopt was fascinating. It becomes evident how high a premium needs to be placed on careful consideration and discretion in the sharing of information in such delicate situation.  The mounting suspense and thriller aspects of the novel really drives that point home. Recommended.

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