Tuesday 18 September 2018

Here Be Adoption

Here be Adoption: Here Be Post 6

Adoption happens for all kinds of reasons in books. Sometimes it’s a plot point, to allow for information to be revealed or mysteries to present. Sometimes it’s a character point, or social exploration, looking at the impact adoption has on the characters and their behaviour. The first “adoption” book I remember is Josephine Kamm’s No Strangers Here (1968) in which the main character discovers in her teens that she is adopted and goes off  the rails in consequence. Then there are the classics; Anne of Green Gables  and Pollyanna. The adoptions in those are rather different, as Anne is adopted to help Matthew on the farm (they sent for a boy and got a girl instead) and Pollyanna is taken in by her aunt when her father dies. In any case, the girls know perfectly well where they came from. In Rilla of Ingleside, Rilla informally adopts a baby whose father has died.  These, and others like them, are not at all the same in tone as the 1960s title.
     My mother was adopted (not sure whether it was formal or not) by her grandparents in the 1920s, and found out when someone told her at school (She didn't go off the rails.) Anyway, adoption is so prevalent in fiction that it’s odd I haven’t used it more in my own books. Here are the ones I found.

In AURORA, an alien baby is informally adopted by Keith and Polly Quinn, a young couple in transit to a new home. They find Aurora in a crashed UFO which vanishes when they lift her out. Polly’s father was a con man, so she’s not keen on contacting the authorities. Aurora looks human and mostly behaves that way but she weighs a lot more than one would expect from her appearance. In her teens she starts to be troubled about her future.

In the A FAIRY IN THE BED series, Chloe Fraser was formally adopted as a baby by an older couple, who died when she was in her early twenties. She has one much-older adopted sister. Nevertheless, she handles her fiancé (now husband) Peck Grene’s sprawling family with aplomb. Thus far she hasn’t pursued any search for her birth family but if she does, her sister will probably be her first port of call.

In GLORY GATE, Sudeshi is Gavven's formally adopted sister, but now the Whiteshirts say she must live with another family. Gavven is upset, even when his friend Jameel’s family is the one chosen.

In THE PUP’S TALE, Tiny is a chocolate Labrador puppy, the smallest in Goldie’s big litter. He’s not doing well, so Doctor Jeannie and Trump find him a foster mother; a charming Sheltie named Pipwen. It’s not exactly an adoption, but effectively Tiny becomes a surrogate part of Pipwen’s litter.

In TRANSLATIONS IN CELADON, Rafe Winter tells Rosanna he was adopted when he was seven after his parents died in a fire. That’s why I can’t let people go. Rafe was adopted by his aunt and uncle and has a David and Jonathan friendship with his cousin/adopted brother Asher.

In TRINITY STREET, the genius Camena de Courcey's adopted parents are dead, and Gerhardt Watchman uses her lack of relatives to lure her into a trap. Camena’s married sister Lyndall loves her, but Lyndall and her husband are very different from the fragile, brilliant Camena. With her adoptive parents gone Camena would be socially isolated if not for her best friend the tenacious Tell Clancy.

In WEDLOCKS,  Gift was adopted as a baby, and never knew she had a twin sister until the ship Bula Sula sinks and Gift is rescued and taken to Atonement, where a taciturn sculptor believes she is his estranged wife and takes a lot of convincing otherwise.

Since there are so few of these, I decided to look at the reasoning behind the adoptions in literary terms.

In AURORA, TRINITY STREET, GLORY GATE and THE PUP’S TALE, the adoptions explored the situation of the adoptee being so different from the adoptive family. Aurora’s alien heritage, Camena’s IQ, Sudeshi’s appearance and Tiny’s breed set them apart from their families.

In AURORA, TRINITY STREET, GLORY GATE and WEDLOCKS, danger or sorrow ensue when the past comes back to impinge on the present. Aurora’s adopted cousin discovers her secret in traumatic circumstances, Camena has trouble finding intellectual equals and so falls easily for Gerdardt’s trap, Sudeshi is the innocent to be taken away for a bureaucratic reason and Gift nearly gets killed when she encounters her unknown sister.

In THE PUP’S TALE, the only problem is the gently humorous fact that Tiny believes he is a Sheltie and has to be taught how to behave like a Labrador.

A FAIRY IN THE BED’s Chloe’s circumstances trouble her not at all. She is short of relatives, but she loved her parents and has no pressing desire to find out about her birth family, assuming they did what they thought best for everyone.  Chloe is a natural helper and fixer and a self-sufficient person, so if she does decide to investigate she’ll no doubt do so methodically and without much angst.

Rafe Winter from TRANSLATIONS IN CELADON is troubled, not so much by being adopted, but by the fact that he remembers the time before.


Sally is Sally Odgers; author, anthologist and reader. You can find you way into her maze of websites and blogs via the portal here.(Sally is me, by the way.)

The goal for 2017 was to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. 2017 is well behind us, but I ran out of year before running out of books. As of June 2018 I STILL hadn't run out of books, but many of those still to come are MIA by which I mean I don't have copies and remember little about them. There are more new books in the pipeline, and I'm certainly showcasing those, but in between times, I'm profiling some of my characters, places, objects and themes. Thank you so much to everyone who's come along on this journey so far!

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