Startling, riveting, and compulsively readable…
MacDonald recounts her life as an adoptee and how it influenced her psyche in this searing memoir. Filtered through decades of reflection and introspection and written with a haunting precision, the book narrates MacDonald’s life as a “chosen child” in the Benham home after her unwed biological mother put her up for adoption in 1945 and a middle-aged couple Rex and Lorene Benham adopted her. Her father’s alcohol abuse and violent temperament forced her mother to seek divorce. Trying to be a good daughter, MacDonald followed all the rules and did well in the school. But falling in love with a young man brought MacDonald at the same crossroad her birth mother had ended up at sixteen years ago; she became pregnant and found herself in the Phoenix Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers. Forced to give up her son for adoption, MacDonald later married her son’s father and went on to have four more children. It would be 21 years before she saw her son again. Decades later, her husband’s plan to relocate them to Phoenix, the place where she gave up her son for adoption, provides the catalyst for MacDonald to question her own fears, insecurities, and sense of displacement, leading to find compassion for her own wounded inner child. There is much of interest in descriptions of how MacDonald fought against despair after her son’s adoption, yearning to know about his well-being in the coming years, and her year-long frantic search to locate him after he turned 21. With bracing honesty, MacDonald reveals her sexual awakening as an adolescent, capturing the giddiness and passion of young love. Vividly capturing the 60s era, MacDonald reflect on the dominant, prudish social norms, the stigma of being an unwed mother, and the emotional and financial upheaval divorced women faced. She skillfully weaves expert references on adoption, psychology, and adolescent development and sexuality into the affecting narrative, pertaining authenticity and intrigue to her story. Drawing from her own experience as an adoptee who always felt she didn’t belong and as a mother who endured the anguish of giving up her son and witnessed the latter’s sense of alienation, she explores the life-long trauma a newborn suffers after getting separated from their birth mother with whom they have formed a neuroglial and biological connection during their time in womb. Rich with perceptive psychological context and evocative language, MacDonald’s account brings her story to fascinating life. This masterfully crafted exploration of trauma, personal identity, and motherhood deserves a wide readership.
Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love
By Marylee MacDonald
Grand Canyon Press
Pub date November 19, 2020
Price $5.27 (USD) Kindle edition