It's Book Club time!
To Have and Not to Hold: The Bonding of Two Mothers through Adoption by Lorri Antosz Benson
Reviewed by Laura from BraveLove
The title caught my attention, and then Phil Donahue's foreword motivated me to keep turning the pages of Lorri Antosz Benson's memoir To Have and Not to Hold.
"What follows on these pages is the flat-out naked true story of a twenty-something female who had it all: good job (ahem, she worked for me), handsome boyfriend, big city romantic evenings, loving parents, and ski-champion good looks... We become witnesses to the moral courage of a cast of people who know what love means, most especially the mother who was the answer to Lorri's prayers - the mother who adopted Lorri's baby and fiercely loves the daughter who is like her own flesh."
I don't know Lorri personally but after reading her memoir I feel like I do. I guess that's the point with memoirs - to peek into someone's life and attempt to feel what they were feeling. Almost immediately, I knew that she was someone I'd want to be friends with.
I loved this book because it was honest. I could put myself into her shoes as she detailed the ups, downs, doubts, insecurities, surprises along the way, and the joys. The difficulty of her decision weighed heavily on me throughout the book, especially early on. But I was also struck by the strong influence of the people around her. There was a cast of characters in her life that shared their opinions like her parents, boyfriend, siblings, social worker, boss, colleagues, friends, etc. For good or for bad, this is true for all expectant mothers. There are so many voices that it can overwhelm an already overwhelming situation.
One of my favorite parts was a letter Lorri's sister had written to her. After Lorri had signed the paperwork and returned home, this letter was waiting for her:
Right now, you are probably making the hardest decision you will ever have to make in your life... by the time you read this, you will have made that decision.
There is no way for you, Andrew, Mom, Dad, Kim, the Donahue staff, or me to know if your decision was the right or best one - yet we have all prayed about it. You have talked it over for nine months with people whom you respect and finally have reached an answer you felt was the best for both you and the baby...
Saying I admire and respect you for the way you've handled this would be putting it mildly. I love you so much, Lorri, and I trust your decision is the best possible one you could have made. Be content... you know we are all behind you always... no matter what.
All my love,
My hope is that all women who choose adoption have a Linda letter waiting for them at home. We are all behind you. No matter what. That is support.
My other hope is that all birth mothers have an adoptive mother as loving, selfless and respectful as Anne was and is to Lorri. The subtitle alludes to this, but the bond between these mothers is really beautiful. I'll save those details for those who choose to read the book. But I can only imagine that this story could also be difficult to read if you do not have a close relationship with your child's adoptive or birth family. Though I was encouraged by Lorri's closing thoughts in her epilogue:
"I know there are tough stories out there. I know there are people on all sides of adoption relationships who for their own personal reasons do not want or need a totally integrated birth/adoptive family. And I know people have been hurt during reunions and attempts at communication. I am not such a Pollyanna that I don't know ours is an unusually positive relationship, but I hope it can inspire more adoption stories to have happy endings. I believe that if each party has the right approach, the right outlook, and a giving and generous heart, there can be more of these close and loving outcomes."
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