Chosen by Chandra Hoffman
Hoffman’s middling debut explores the darker side of open adoption, as seen through the eyes of Chloe Pinter, a young social worker at a Portland, Ore., adoption agency. Juggling the insecurities of the wealthy and infertile Francie and John McAdoo with the increasingly strident demands of the contracted and impoverished birth parents, Penny and Jason, Chloe starts to question her own beliefs and motivations. When Chloe sees that Penny has bought a basinet, she warns the McAdoos that the adoption might not go through, inadvertently setting off a chain of events that eventually puts a newborn in danger’s path. Hoffman seems to want the reader to understand the dilemma of birth parents confronted with the need to give up a child, but Penny and Jason and their family are too damaged and destructive to elicit any empathy, and the McAdoos, on the other end of the class spectrum, never fail to fall into stereotype. There is a whisper of a solid story about the way poverty, yearning, opportunity, and loss can play out, but with characters so weakly realized, it’s tough to see this as anything more than a good-intentioned but inexpert exercise.