Girls in Trouble

Girls in Trouble

4.7 28
by Caroline Leavitt
     
 

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In this heart-wrenching story of an open adoption gone wrong, Caroline Leavitt reveals the astonishing power of family bonds and maternal love. Sara, sixteen, is in denial about her pregnancy and too far along for an abortion. Her once-devoted boyfriend has disappeared so Sara decides her only option is an open adoption with George and Eva, a couple desperate for a

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Overview

In this heart-wrenching story of an open adoption gone wrong, Caroline Leavitt reveals the astonishing power of family bonds and maternal love. Sara, sixteen, is in denial about her pregnancy and too far along for an abortion. Her once-devoted boyfriend has disappeared so Sara decides her only option is an open adoption with George and Eva, a couple desperate for a child. After the birth it's clear Sara has a bond with the child that Eva can't duplicate and Eva and George make a drastic decision, with devastating consequences for them all.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Leavitt's writing is so fluid, her characters so well realized, I found myself reading nearly until the sun came up. When I was finished I felt as though I had made a new friend, and had stayed up all night listening to her stories.” —Pam Houston, author of Cowboys are My Weakness and A Little More About Me

“Given the hot topic of this novel--open adoptions gone wrong--you'd expect a finger-pointing, too-PC tone. But Leavitt's surprising take will get your book group really talking.” —Glamour

Publishers Weekly
Leavitt's uneven but earnest eighth novel examines the emotional price a bright Massachusetts teen pays when she chooses "open" adoption for a baby she gives birth to at 16. It's 1987, and smart Sara Rothman has fallen in love with "black sheep" Danny Slade. When he vanishes after learning she's pregnant, Sara gives the baby up. Leavitt (Coming Back to Me) poignantly depicts the consequences of that choice for everyone concerned: Sara, who misses her baby and Danny both; Abby and Jack, Sara's well-meaning parents; Danny, the young father; George and Eva Rivers, the attentive but naive adoptive couple; and Anne, the child. At first, Sara visits the Riverses daily-she loves Anne, and the Riverses had cared for her while she was pregnant. But her presence becomes intrusive, and eventually, Eva takes a stand: "We adopted Anne," she tells Sara. "We didn't adopt you." Sara then makes a desperate attempt to steal the infant, and when she's found, the Riverses move and deny Sara visiting rights ("Open adoptions are only enforceable in Oregon," a lawyer tells her). Fifteen years pass, and Leavitt's focus wavers; a fuzzy reunion between Danny and Sara is particularly unconvincing. The novel's portrait of dreamy, adolescent Anne and her relationship with the older Riverses is sharper, as is the realistic, bumpy reunion of birth mother and daughter. An unflinching depiction of maternal need and the dynamics of adoption, this tale is a sharp reminder of the importance of honesty in life decisions. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this pull-at-your-heart novel, Leavitt (Coming Back to Me) once again proves how adept she is at creating fully fleshed characters. Sixteen-year-old Sara is pregnant, abandoned by her boyfriend, and desperately wanting to do what's right. Enter George and Eva, an older couple unable to have a child and desperate to make their family complete. The three decide on an open adoption, and soon Sarah is spending an increasing amount of time with George and Eva, much to the dismay of her parents, who want her to move on with her life. After the baby's birth, Sara is surprised at the immediate bond she feels with her child. She is even more surprised when she finds that she is no longer welcome in George and Eva's home, as she had been promised. The consequence is a rash act that ultimately bars Sara from her child for years. This is a wonderful story of family relationships, the choices we make, and whom we can count on. Recommended for all public libraries.-Nanci Milone Hill, Lucius Beebe Memorial Lib., Wakefield, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An open adoption goes awry, in an eighth outing by the Boston Globe columnist. Bewildered by the experience of giving birth, 16-year-old Sara turns to her emotionally remote parents, Jack and Abby, for help-but they want nothing to do with their newborn granddaughter, Anne. George and Eva, the adoptive parents, at first welcome Sara into their home, hoping she will relinquish the baby in due time, but they become increasingly uneasy as the months go by and she doesn't leave. The adoption is not yet final, however, and they don't want to upset her. Then, panicked by the prospect of losing the only person on earth who truly belongs to her after Danny, the baby's father, decamps, Sara takes Anne and runs, though she's caught at the end of a long trip on a Greyhound bus. Her well-meaning parents intervene and she loses custody, going on to college in New York, a copywriting job, and a love affair with an architect. Sixteen years later, a chance meeting with Danny, happily married to an angelic woman now pregnant with his child, reawakens Sara's hopes of a reunion with her daughter. She is shocked to find that he never actually signed the papers relinquishing his parental rights (his brother did); and further, that her father told Danny that she hated him and never wanted to see him again. Can a private detective find Anne? Switch to teenaged Anne's POV: she's a bright, lovable misfit who yearns to be a writer and endures the scathing comments of unfeeling teachers, obnoxious classmates, and her perpetually disappointed mother. She wonders idly why she's so different, red hair and all, not knowing that she was adopted or anything about her birth mother. The moment of truth isn't far off, happyendings awaiting all these troubled souls. A sadly familiar tale by Leavitt (Coming Back to Me, 2001, etc.), though ably written in a straightforward style: likely to appeal to teenagers and their parents as well. Agent: Gail Hochman/Brandt & Hochman

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312339739
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
1,260,182
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 10.38(h) x 0.92(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sara's pains are coming ten minutes apart now. Every time one comes, she jolts herself against the side of the car, trying to disappear. Everything outside is whizzing past her from the car window because Jack, her father, is speeding, something she's never seen him do before. Sara grips the armrest, her knuckles white. She presses her back against the seat and digs her feet into the floor, as if any moment she will fly from the car. Stop, she wants to say. Slow down. Stop. But she can't form the words, can't make her mouth work properly. Can't do anything except wait in terror for the next pain. Jack hunches over the wheel, beeping his horn though there isn't much traffic. His face is reflected in the rearview mirror, but he doesn't look at her. Instead, he can't seem to keep himself from looking at Abby, Sara's mother, who is sitting in the back with Sara. His face is unreadable. He keeps pushing back his hair, thick and brown, dimmed with grey. He punches the radio dial from station to station, smearing the sound.

"Jack, for God's sake," says Abby. "Just pick a station." Abby hands Sara a hard lemon candy to suck on. She rubs Sara's shoulders, helps her wedge the pink rubber ball into the small of her back to press against the pain. The dress Sara's been living in for months, a blue denim that's two sizes bigger than the one she used to wear, soft from many washings, is soaked with sweat, pasted to her. Her hair snarls to her shoulders, the same rust red as her mother's short, styled cut, only hers is damp, frizzy with curls. No matter how frosty the car gets, Sara can't stop sweating.

"Nineteen eighty-seven and it's the worst heat wave in Boston in fifty years!" the radio announcer says. He keeps saying his name, which is Wild Bill, and every time he says it, he laughs, and the laughter gets under Sara's skin, crawling like some sort of insect. "We've never seen a July like this one!" He's got a crackling, gleeful voice that pops and snaps as if it were carbonated. "Keep inside, keep cool, keep tuned in. There's a health hazard warning for elderly and pregnant women." Sara feels a small shock of recognition, as if the announcer were talking directly to her, but Abby keeps rubbing her bare shoulders as if she hasn't heard anything, and Jack purposefully zips into another lane. Abby's face is coated with sweat. Perspiration beads on Jack's neck. "Two people have died already," Wild Bill says and Sara thinks, amazed, I'm dying, too. He talks about drought and blackouts and crime waves because people are 0going crazy from the heat. No one can be counted on to behave reasonably. An elderly woman was found by a neighbor, panting on her floor by her open refrigerator. A white teacup poodle has nearly suffocated in a car left in a parking lot, but was revived when his desperate owner gave him mouth to mouth. "Even Wild Bill isn't wild enough to do that!" Wild Bill says.

Sara swears his voice is growing louder and bigger, crowding out all the room in the car, all the air, and she can't stand listening to it another moment and she's about to say so when another pain grabs at her and instead she cries out.

"Oh, honey," Abby says, turning to her, trying to push back Sara's hair, which is so wet now it's strings. "It's almost over. Almost over now."

Pain crunches down on Sara. "No," she gasps. "No, it's not."

"Soon," her mother promises. "Soon." Her mother's hands float over her.

Jack punches in another station. A long, itchy slide of jazz comes on, making Sara flinch. "Here's the turn," Jack says. His voice is low and determined.

Jack has taken a day off. He's an accountant and his cell phone sits beside him on the seat, and the only reason he's brought it is in case they need to call the doctor, or the car breaks down, or any number of disasters that surely couldn't be any worse for everybody than this one. Abby's a dental hygienist in Belmont and she's taking off a week, something unheard of for her. Usually she's so concerned with everyone else's teeth, she neglects her own when she comes home, but now it's different. "Everyone can take care of their own pearly whites for a change," she says. Every time Abby looks at Sara, Abby changes into something Sara's stopped recognizing. Abby's beauty leaves her. Her eyes, usually blue and soft as felt, become distant. Her mouth takes on a funny slope. And sometimes, when Sara least expects it, Abby's face saddens with regret.

Sara has a lawyer Abby had found, a woman at a Newton adoption agency named Margaret Robins. Every time Margaret talks to Sara, she asks pointedly, "Do you understand?" Abby asks that same question, too, but Jack won't discuss anything with Sara anymore, not even a thing as simple as how he feels. Instead, he's gone mute.

The car bumps, like a reproach from her father, and Sara winces at the flash of pain. Abby rubs her back. "It'll be over soon. Think of your future. Think of school."

Sara is an honor student. Sixteen years old and her guidance counselor already is pushing early admission to Columbia. To Harvard. She loves to say Sara can write her own ticket, which is something Abby repeats like a mantra. "You're smart," she says, but what Sara hears is that Sara may be smart, but she isn't smart enough not to be pregnant.

Sara used to have her life planned. She used to want to be a doctor-a psychiatrist-a decision she made the first time she picked up an issue of Psychology Today and couldn't stop reading it. When she was twelve, Abby gave her her own subscription, which Sara devoured, saving all her issues on a special shelf, highlighting the articles that caught and held her interest. Abby loved to leaf through the issues herself. "Nothing wrong with improving my mind, too," she told Sara. "It's terrific you know what you want now. A girl has to know what she wants early and stick to it, or she can get robbed of her life."

"Robbed?" Sara had looked up from the article she was reading, "Body Talk!" She glanced at herself in the mirror to try and decipher her own string-bean build.

"Oh, I'm just being melodramatic," Abby said, waving her hand, but Sara studied her mother. Abby was folding towels, her prim white lab coat over a shocking-pink dress with a ruffled hem. Her back was hunched, her mouth tense. Abby used to want to be a dentist; she had finished a whole year of dental school when she met Jack. She had shown Sara the photograph of her in school, standing in front of a big brick building, her arms loaded with books, her red hair flying, her face flushed with joy. "Why'd you give that up?" Sara had asked her, and Abby had continued folding. "Easier," she said. "I met your father and got married, then you came along, and who else was going to stay home and raise you? Your father didn't trust anyone else but me."

"You could go back," Sara said, and Abby shrugged. "Now? How could I do that?" Sara looked at Abby with interest. "Why are you looking at me like that?" Abby asked.

Sara held up the magazine. "I was just trying to read your body language."

"I'll translate for you," Abby said, rubbing at her temple. "I'm fluent in headache."

Sara no longer knows what her future holds. Psychology Today comes in the mail, the cover so glossy it reflects light back at her, and she doesn't even open it to see what's in the table of contents, because, really, what does it have to do with her now?

Shortly before her stomach started to swell, she went to a fortune-teller, one of those five-dollar places with a turbaned woman on a ratty couch. All Sara wanted was to be told good news. She walked inside and sat on the edge of the couch and the woman gave her a cup of tea that tasted like dishwater and then dumped the cup upside down on a plate. "Ah," she said, poking a finger into the leaves. "Seventy dollars and misfortune is gone."

"I don't have seventy dollars," Sara said and the woman shrugged.

"Then you have misfortune," she said, but Sara didn't need a fortune-teller to tell her that.

"Grab on to me," Abby says now, offering her arm. Sara wrenches away. If she touches her mother's arm, she's afraid she'll beg for help, she'll scream, she'll do whatever it is Abby wants if Abby will just take this pain from her. She looks at the locks on the car, the windows sealed shut, the way she's so trapped. There's no air. She can't breathe. Surely, she's dying. She concentrates on the slow whomp, whomp, whomp, inside of her, like some strange animal coming closer, biding its time to strike. It's the most astonishing feeling she's ever had. She suddenly thinks of this movie she once saw called It's Alive! Babies born with teeth, vicious killers who devoured their parents.

Whomp. Another pain and Sara starts feeling more afraid. She starts thinking, What was that? What have I done? What's going to happen? She's been so stupid about her own body. She kept telling herself, If I don't think about it, it won't exist.

A contraction buckles Sara over, banding her stomach with fire. Panicked, Sara grips the seat. "Mom," she says uneasily. "Mommy-"

If she hadn't bitten her fingernails, she would have dug them into the vinyl. "Pant," Abby orders, sucking in her own breath, but Sara can't. All she can do is ride the pain, hold on fast, and pray it will end. Sara had never actually believed she would give birth, and now there's no escape. "First births can take eighteen hours," one doctor has told her, and Sara had thought he was just trying to scare her, to punish her, even. Another pain, deeper this time. Whomp. She winces and Abby grips her hand. Sara presses her hands along her back and the pain stops a little. Or maybe it just tightens, like a steel garrote.

Jack skids, flinging Sara against the side of the car. "Everyone all right?" he asks.

"Jack, for God's sake!" Abby says. And then something happens, a wave of pain shoots down Sara's back. It has a life of its own, an unstoppable force. She gasps and she's suddenly drenched from her waist on down. Something is pouring out of her, uncontrollably, like pee, like bathwater. The floor of the car is suddenly soaked. Sara locks eyes with Abby. "It's okay," Abby says, taking her hand, speaking calmly, but Sara can feel how her mother's hand trembles. She feels the sound of the road deep within her skin. She hears the whisper of the other drivers, flowing through her like river water. Her grip tightens. She makes a sound, harsh, scraped from her throat, and Abby stiffens. "Jack, can you please just go fast," Abby says.

fs20Jack's hands tighten on the wheel.

The pain zigzags down Sara's spine, stronger, more intense, making her suck in a breath like Jell-O through a straw. She tries to roll herself into a ball, to get away from the pain, but she's too big, and anyway, she knows there's no escape from this. "Hurry," Abby tells Jack. She touches his shoulder with one hand, and there's something new in her voice, something urgent that makes Jack look at Sara for the first time. There's sweat beaded on his lip even though the car is so cold it's practically freezing. His lips are chapped and his shirt is unpressed. "Okay, baby girl," he says. Baby girl. She hears it in wonder and for a moment the pain fades. Baby girl. He used to call her that all the time, making her groan, making her friends giggle. He wouldn't let her pick up anything heavy or go anywhere by herself because he'd worry what might happen. Once, he even reached out to hold her hand when they were crossing a street, just as if she were six. Baby girl. At sixteen, she's no baby, but still, hearing him call her one now is comfort. Now she wishes he would call her that again, but instead, he's hunkered over the wheel, weaving in and out among the other cars, like an accident getting ready to happen.

A new bolt of pain shoots along her spine and Sara feels like laughing because her doctor is clearly wrong. Her baby isn't going to take eighteen hours to be born. Her baby is coming now and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

There ahead of them is the hospital. There's St. Elizabeth's. Big and squat and brown and full of traffic, people, and doctors. Jack pulls up by the ER. "I'll let you get out, park, and find you," he says. His voice sounds like someone she no longer knows. Sara squints out at the front door, panic rising in her throat. She can't breathe. She can't move. She can't survive.

Frantic, she tries to speak. "I don't see them," she suddenly rasps. "Where's Eva and George?" Abby tightens; Jack snaps the wheel around. It's the first time she's spoken those names in the car because of the way Jack and Abby react, but she can't help it now. It feels like there's too much at stake for her. Another bolt of pain curls her over. Sara tries to sit up, and finds, to her surprise, that the pain won't let her. "Easy, honey," Abby soothes, jumping out of the car, opening Sara's door.

It's a shock to feel all that heat. Things waver in the shiny air and for a moment Sara is listing. For a moment she thinks her whole life is a mirage about to pass. She tries to arc her legs out of the car and the pain forces her down, insistent and angry, a line of pure fire making her still. I can't survive this, she thinks in wonder. "Sara?" Abby bends toward Sara. "Honey, here's a hand," Abby says, and Sara grasps at her mother's fingers. She holds on tight and pulls herself up and she's suddenly dizzy, and another cramp grabs her, whomp. And whomp again and whomp, and she tries to breathe, to stand, and she can't do either. She buckles over.

"Sara?" says Jack, his voice cracking. Huh-huh, hee-hee, ho-ho, Sara pants and the pain, insistent as a fist, suddenly collapses her into Abby's arms.

Copyright 2004 by Caroline Leavitt

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Meet the Author

Caroline Leavitt is a book columnist for the Boston Globe and the author of seven previous novels. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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Girls in Trouble 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It¿s 1987; and sixteen year old Sara is pregnant. Her boyfriend Danny is a bit of a rebel who her parents want no part of. Neither do they want a part of Sara and Danny¿s baby. Their main concern is that Sara will move on with her life after the birth so that she can follow her dream of attending college and living a good life. But since Sara wants to be a part of the child¿s life, she has opted for an open adoption. So finding Eva and George as adoptive parents was like a dream come true. The middle-aged couple welcomes Sara into their home with open arms, taking snapshots with her, teaching her to drive, and even keeping souvenirs of her for the baby¿s sake. She is allowed to come and go as she pleases. They even treat her better than her own parents. But sometimes dreams become nightmares.................... Once Sara gives birth, things take a dramatic turn for the worse. The adoptive parents no longer want to see her every day, telling her they need time to bond with the baby. Truth is: Sara¿s maternal instincts and natural bonding with the child prove to be a bit too much for the jealous parents to handle. Meanwhile, the naïve Sara continues to make her unwelcome presence felt by dropping by Eva and George¿s home on a daily basis, almost to the point of fanatical stalking. But she can¿t help it. She loves her newborn baby, Anne, even though she¿s not really her baby at all. When Eva and George express their true feelings about Sara¿s frequent visits, she takes matters into her own hands, which forces the couple to make a drastic decision of their own............................ ¿Girls in Trouble¿ tells the story of a unique and original topic, an open adoption gone terribly wrong and how the lives of the people involved are affected. The story spans over a sixteen year period. The author does a splendid job at capturing the perspective of each person involved, including the birth parents, adoptive parents, birth grandparents, and the young girl who was adopted. Caroline Leavitt (author of Coming Back to Me) has definitely brought her ¿A¿ game to the table with her crisp and intriguing writing style that will make you smile.......................... Though the slow-paced beginning of the story contains a few clichés about childbirth and adoption, it gets a full head of steam and continues its pace for the remainder of the tale. By the story¿s end, you will surely crave more and more. ¿Girls in Trouble¿ is a captivating story that will surely find its way beneath the arms of a plethora of loving fans of all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In her latest novel, 'Girls in Trouble', Caroline Leavitt explores the timeless themes of teenage pregnancy, adoption, and first love, in the story of Sara, a pregnant sixteen year old, who offers her unborn child for an open adoption to two middle aged professionals, George and Eva. The arrangement fails, and we follow Sara for the next half of her life in her search for truth and validation. This book will resonate with anyone who remembers their first encounter with love. Caroline Leavitt weaves a dense and lyrical tale of Sara and Danny, latter day 'star crossed lovers', whose love is condemned by both their families. She portrays strong and convincing characters in this fearful interplay between the lovers, their disparaging families, and their daughter and her adoptive parents. The drama continues for the next 16 years. The choices that all the players live out, are relentless in their progress away from that original fusion, the perfect love of two teenagers, that can never be. It's a wonderful read, enjoy! Val Harbolovic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to woman and teenagers. Good lessoned learned even though this is a work of fiction. Enjoyable to read while heartbreaking. Read this book i think in a couple of days. Definately one for yoir library!
MrsO More than 1 year ago
This book was so hard to put down, as many readers have said. I could picture all the characters and could imagine their feelings and struggles with their decisions. Had a few surprises also that didn't even come to mind, and was sorry to see the story end. Another nice thing, I felt the story actually had an ending which some books do not. I think this book would be interesting for any woman, any age.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read for teenage girls! I'm not usually one to read books, but once i picked this one up i couldn't put it down! Caroline Leavitt really knows how pick up a unique plot and put it into such a wonderful story. It has drama, love and even some romance. When Sarah learns she is expecting a child at the age of 16 she turns to help from her boyfriend who has disappeared all of a sudden. Leaving Sarah with no other choice but adoption. Eva and Georage seem like the perfect couple but when Sarah decides she wants to be with her child every living second, Eva and George are left to make a shocking desision that affects Sarah in the worst way. What will she do to save her child? A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 'Girls in Trouble', talented novelist Caroline Leavitt once again treats us, the readers, with respect. She doesn't disappoint us with contrivance, she transforms her characters into credible beings beside whom we willingly journey with open minds because we know fully well that in Leavitt's story-telling, predictability is never an option. Another gem from a writer with a gentle, unobtrusive touch; she welcomes us in and lets us quietly accompany her characters everywhere they go. You get so close, you hurt for them, you rejoice with them. Some words of caution however: if you pick this book up from your nightstand at around 9:00pm, don't expect to get much sleep! I went straight through, I just couldn't let it go, that's how deeply I was drawn into this story. What else is new? It happened with Leavitt's seven other novels, too!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Caroline Leavitt has done it again! This book really brought the characters to life, & I found myself wondering what I would do in each situation. Very tough decisions. I am looking forward to reading many, many books by Caroline Leavitt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story held my attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Rating 3.5/5 stars I found the writing in this book a little, for lack of a better word, weird. It didn't feel as polished or as smooth as I expected. Since this is the first book that I've read from Caroline Leavitt, I'm not sure if this is just her style of writing or if it is just this book. Either way, it worked really well for Girls in Trouble. Other than the ending, which was a little too neat and perfect, I enjoyed this story. Though I don't know much about adoption, I feel like Girls in Trouble did a good job at exploring how messy things can be, especially in an open adoption. I felt connected to all of the characters and could see everyone's side clearly. It was well done. Check out all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book--warm, passionate, sensitve, nuanced. I really felt Sara's confusion and pain, and the heartbreak involved in giving up her infant daughter before she understood the consequences of her decision. A must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Caroline Leavitt is one of my favorite writers and her latest novel doesn't disappoint. In fact, it's her best book yet. The characters are vivid and memorable and I couldn't put the book down. When I was forced to stop reading, I found myself thinking about the characters; they took on a life of their own. I felt I knew them and couldn't wait to see what would happen in their lives. This is such a wonderful book that you should buy a copy for yourself and then buy as many copies as you can to share with all of your friends who appreciate beautiful language and a haunting, heart-wrenching story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my second Leavitt book and I was not disappointed. Her writing gets you in the hearts and minds of the characters. I found myself so wrapped up in this story that I was thinking about it long after I put it down. I anxiously will await any books by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When young Sara faces an unwanted pregnancy, she copes as best she can. But the choices she makes -- ultimately opting for an open adoption -- don't necessarily work out the way anyone intended. In Leavitt's hands, this complicated tale of real-life dilemmas comes alive with multi-faceted characters and real situations. Touching, and yet full of joy.