Lucky Girl

I suspect many adoptees have been told they were lucky at some point in their lives: fortunate to have escaped an unknown fate; blessed to have been chosen by a new family who loves them. For Mei-Ling Hopgood, self-professed “Lucky Girl,” it seems less about being told than about arriving at the conclusion herself. Kismet was not lost on this sixth daughter of a poor Taiwanese farming family, given up just after birth. After eight months in the care of an American nun, she crossed oceans and continents to be placed in the arms of the Hopgoods, a forward-thinking couple who fell in love with the little, dark bundle immediately. Rather than grow up unwanted by a family on a single-minded quest to produce male offspring, Mei-Ling describes an idyllic childhood, as a treasured daughter given every opportunity to succeed. But Mei-Ling never dwelled on her past, so it’s a surprise when it comes to find her at age 23, at the beginning of her career as a journalist. With the skilled objectivity of a reporter, she chronicles a journey that takes her back to the welcoming bosom of her birth family and to Taiwan, over a complicated landscape fraught with confusing emotions. Though adoptees in reunion with their own birth parents will find plenty of familiar terrain in these pages, Mei-Ling’s memoir goes well beyond an elated account of first impressions to cover the darker side of rejoining a family-in-progress. In an unflinching pursuit of truth, she pushes the Wang family’s skeletons out of decades-long shadows and, in the process, learns a few things about herself. “You can’t change your past, but you can choose where to go with what you are given.” We should all be so lucky.