Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's Journey

Overview


Surrendered Child is Karen Salyer McElmurray's raw, poignant account of her journey from her teen years, when she put her newborn child up for adoption, to adulthood and a desperate search for the son she never knew. In a patchwork narrative interwoven with dark memories from her childhood, McElmurray deftly treads where few dare--into a gritty, honest exploration of the loss a birth mother experiences.

The year was 1973, a time of social upheaval, even in small-town Kentucky, ...

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Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's Journey

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Overview


Surrendered Child is Karen Salyer McElmurray's raw, poignant account of her journey from her teen years, when she put her newborn child up for adoption, to adulthood and a desperate search for the son she never knew. In a patchwork narrative interwoven with dark memories from her childhood, McElmurray deftly treads where few dare--into a gritty, honest exploration of the loss a birth mother experiences.

The year was 1973, a time of social upheaval, even in small-town Kentucky, where McElmurray grew up. More than a story of time and place, however, this is about a girl who, at the age of sixteen, relinquished her son at birth. Twenty-five years would pass before McElmurray began sharing this part of her past with others and actively looking for her son.

McElmurray's own troubled upbringing and her quest after a now-fully-grown son are the heart of her story. With unflinching honesty, McElmurray recounts both the painful surrendering and the surprise rediscovery of her son, juxtaposed with her portrayal of her own mother, who could not provide the love she needed. The dramatic result is a story of birthright lost and found--and an exploration of the meaning of motherhood itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This is a very moving and pungent narrative, which quickly engages the reader's imagination, as its gorgeously remembered details spill onto the page, not necessarily in chronological order but by patchwork design and as if on their own."--Beverly Lowry, author of Crossed Over: A Murder, a Memoir

"Graceful, shocking, sensuous, and gritty, this book questions consequences. It ends at the beginning and begins at the end. A wonderful, almost unbearably honest book.”--Sheri Reynolds, The Rapture of Canaan

"Riveting and disturbing, McElmurray's poetic language and utter honesty lift this story into the realm of grace—finally, this dark memoir is an enlightening and redemptive work of art."--Lee Smith

"This book bears powerful testimony to the saving grace of imagination."--Tennessean

"Courageous in its honesty, stunning in its vision. McElmurray is a writer of enormous talent who explores the consequences of loss and grace and recovery in this hauntingly beautiful story of her life."--Gwyn Hyman Rubio, author of Icy Sparks

"McElmurray transforms some of her life's more difficult experiences into pure poetry; where there once was pain, she creates beauty."--Rosemary Daniell, author of Fatal Flowers

"Not only a deeply moving personal story that takes great courage to tell, but also a beautiful and haunting exploration of the nature and the meaning of motherhood and love. McElmurray's lyrical, incantatory voice casts a magic spell."--Janice Eidus, author of The Celibacy Club

"In this fresh, painfully honest, but very wise and beautifully written book, Karen McElmurray tells us how deeply some decisions affect us, ever afterwards."--Reeve Lindburgh

Rosemary Daniell
"McElmurray transforms some of her life's more difficult experiences into pure poetry; where there once was pain, she creates beauty."
author of Fatal Flowers
Janice Eidus
"Not only a deeply moving personal story that takes great courage to tell, but also a beautiful and haunting exploration of the nature and the meaning of motherhood and love. McElmurray's lyrical, incantatory voice casts a magic spell."
author of The Celibacy Club
Gwyn Hyman Rubio
"Courageous in its honesty, stunning in its vision. McElmurray is a writer of enormous talent who explores the consequences of loss and grace and recovery in this hauntingly beautiful story of her life."
author of Icy Sparks
Publishers Weekly
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Karen Salyer McElmurray is the author of two novels, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (Georgia) and Motel of the Stars, and the memoir Surrendered Child (Georgia). She is associate professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University, where she is nonfiction editor for Arts and Letters. She also teaches in the low-residency program at Murray State University.
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