The first few pages…….

Sometimes you may read a book which you wish you could have written – because it tells your story or it doesn’t.  In Why be Happy when you could be Normal? Jeannette Winterson has written  a memoir of adoption which is both universal and utterly unique.

Unique: Whilst she is not alone in having a violent and abusive mother and a silent, disengaged father (“He had never talked much, him being clumsy and unsure with language.”    “….he didn’t fight for me”), her adoptive mother, Mrs Winterson, with her sadistic blend of violence, withdrawal and Pentecostal religion is monstrous beyond belief,  ‘she was a monster but she was my monster’.

The one good thing about being shut in a coalhole is that it prompts reflection.

Universal: The adoptee’s fear of abandonment, of never being loved enough, of never really, really being wanted (“How do you trust another person to love you? I had no idea . I thought love was loss”). She speaks of having 2 failed families – the birth family and the adoptive family –   “the first one was not my fault but all adopted children blame themselves”

Adoption begins on your own – you are solitary. The baby knows it has been abandoned

And literature saved her life: It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place. Fiction and poetry are doses, medecines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.

It’s a quest story but ultimately a redemption story – of becoming ‘because’ not ‘despite’

Journal prompt

“We need better stories about adoption”

Do you have an adoption story to tell?

Adopted children are self-invented because they have to be….adoption drops you into the story after it has started . It’s like reading a book with the first few pages missing…..The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you…..

BUT  The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void.

What are the first few pages of your story?

9 thoughts on “The first few pages…….”

  1. Jenny, I first read Oranges in 1985 and have followed her writing ever since. I have found something to like or admire or think about in all her work and the scope of her writing is breathtaking (physics, Handel, social commentary, myth etc – the list goes on). But this one is particularly inspiring.


  2. I read this book recently as well, after revisiting ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ – as a writer, I found the difference between them very interesting – both, in their own ways, really impressive and inspiring. Highly recommended.


  3. Thank you Kate, what you wrote and shared just takes my breath away…
    Another book I just finished and loved is The Language of Flowers…similar venue…wonderful insight into the psychology of children who are in foster care.

    Linda W. Peterson-St. Pierre Ph.D
    Emeritus Professor, University of Nevada School of Medicine
    Marriage and Family Therapist #0025
    775 324 6501
    A life lived more for significance than success, is the best life of all!


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