Canadian Council of Natural Mothers' Library

Brother & Sister
Joanna Trollope

This well-crafted novel tells the story of an adopted brother and sister who both search for and find their mothers. Steve comes home one evening to find his wife Nathalie concerned that their daughter Polly has a malformation of her ear, and that it is likely hereditary. This event catalyzes Nathalie's search for her mother. She insists that her adopted brother, David, also search despite his initial reluctance to do so.

The story then follows the lives of Natalie's and David's families, with some flashbacks to earlier years to explain how they arrived at the point in their lives where the novel opens. The emotional tones for the different people ring fairly true, as when the adoptive mother feels threatened by the children she's raised searching for their natural families. Personally, I am confused by this reaction, almost universal as it is. Adoptive families must know that the children they raise were borne by other mothers. Why is it so surprising to them that these individuals would want information about themselves? No one is surprised when a person searches their genealogical roots, and yet so often adoptive families are upset when these adults who were adopted search for their genealogical roots. Do they really believe that adults who were adopted have different reactions than the rest of humanity?

David's and Natalie's family members (wife, husband, children) lack understanding of their feelings and of their natural mothers' feelings. Indeed, the two siblings themselves bring different reactions to the loss of their families and the search itself. How each person reacts to this change in their lives reveals their own characters, and the fault lines of those characters. It is undeniable that reunion throws into relief the usual family interactions and patterns. Some are then renewed and some are re-borne.

Like so many mothers who lose a child to adoption, Nathalie's mother Cora never 'went on with her life.' She didn't marry or have other children. She is thrilled to have her daughter contact her and by the end of the story, and despite the lack of support from her older sister, it is clear that she and Natalie will have an on-going relationship that will build over time. David's mother, Carole, is also finally able to confront her losses and re-build the patterns in her family and with her subsequent sons along more productive lines. David is also able to move ahead with his life, stronger for having met his mother.

The novel will be an interesting read for those who want to understand about possible effects of adoption reunion.

Reviewer: Sandra Falconer Pace

(2004) Toronto: McArthur & Company
ISBN: 1-55278-422-3

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