Reviews for Surrendered Child : A Birth Mother's Journey
Kirkus Reviews 2004 July #2
Novelist McElmurray (Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven, 1999) recounts in overwrought prose how she gave up her newborn son for adoption and lived to regret it. Although she can't remember whether her baby was born in June or July 1973, the author describes vividly the harrowing experience of giving birth at age 16. She never explicitly explains why she decided to give up her son, or why she refused to allow her father to adopt him, but she makes it abundantly clear that her own parents were poor role models, dwelling on the awfulness of her mother, an agoraphobic, controlling woman obsessed with cleanliness and incapable of showing love. When her parents divorced, McElmurray chose to live with her father and quickly plunged into a world of drugs, drinking, and teenage sex. A pregnant runaway at 15, she lived the hippie life until hauled home by her father and forced into marriage. Winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction, her memoir features a graphic account of her hippie days that is creative indeed. What McElmurray (Creative Writing/Georgia College and State Univ.) cannot remember she recreates, leaving the reader wondering how much of her story is real and how much spun from an inventive writer's brain. Once divorced from her husband, she continued her education and became a teacher. From an adult perspective, she analyzes her subsequent sexual behavior, detailing various unrewarding love affairs. She also covers a reunion with her stifled mother, eventual marriage to an appreciative man, and her long-delayed efforts to locate her son. Labored, self-indulgent womb-gazing. Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 June #4
While memoirs by foster parents and adopted children crowd bookshelves, we haven't heard as much from the women who've given up those children for adoption. McElmurray may seem a typical birth mother-a working-class teen unprepared to raise a child-until she describes her own upbringing. When McElmurray was 12 or 13, her mother, gripped by a cleanliness fetish, still insisted on supervising her on the toilet, wiping her bottom. Both daughter and father had to shower in the garage before coming inside. Meals, too, could be messy, so they ate only processed, packaged foods. When McElmurray started dating, her mother's vigilance heightened, and before long, her compulsions resulted in divorce. McElmurray moved in with her father, but thanks to his lax supervision and lack of contraceptive coaching, she was pregnant at 15. In Kentucky in 1971, a girl could run away and do drugs for a while-which McElmurray did-before coming home and marrying. Ignoring her father's pleas, the author still signed the baby over for adoption. That McElmurray made it out of her trailer-park marriage, out of secretarial and fast food jobs, through college and on to teaching creative writing courses is admirable. That she reached the self-awareness to birth this remarkable memoir is a gift both to her son and to readers. 22 photos. (Oct. 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.