Creating a composite of characters and cases from her experiences at an adoption agency in Portland, Oregon (preceded by working with babies at a Romanian hospital and orphanage – Chosen is fictional but the author did have these experiences), Chandra Hoffman writes, in her Author’s Notes, “I cried and raged at some adoptions that fell apart, and just as painfully for some that went through” as she ponders the questions “How does parenthood change you? How will the challenges you face shape you as a couple?……..What makes a good parent? A good person?”
All of these ideas are incorporated into the book, but Ms. Hoffman fleshes out her characters and makes them real to us in an unforgettable manner. Working for the Chosen Child agency, her protagonist, Chloe Pinter, is always on call, waiting for an imminent or late birth or an agreement by a usually poor couple to let a usually rich couple adopt their as yet unborn child. In these pages we see a plethora of couples, all different, all with individual hopes and fears. We soon begin to sympathize even with those whose pasts involve prison and alcohol and drugs, given the backgrounds to which they themselves have been exposed, with constant beatings and inhumane treatment.
It’s a complex world: in this book, one in which a child even “disappears,” rendering its new mother completely distraught. Some disadvantaged fathers are loving towards their infants and regret giving them up, while some privileged fathers care so little that they start up relationships on-line with women in Singapore! Chloe Pinter herself has to deal with a boyfriend who feels alive only when in Hawaii, kitesurfing. And a vast amount of adoptions occur because couples have problems with infertility that eat up a lot of money and many years of their lives.
Ms. Hoffman has successfully presented this world almost like a small spinning planet with its own population, at the center of which is not baby buying but a baby exchange, in which – humanistically – people are always changing their minds or not realizing how their expectations clash with the realities of having a baby. It is to Ms. Hoffman’s credit that she holds our interest on any and every given page, giving us a glimpse of a world most of us are fortunate enough not to inhabit, and showing us how indeed lucky we are. Down the line I forsee many similarly brilliant novels from Ms. Hoffman!
Chosen, a novel by Chandra Hoffman, published by Harper Collins on August 24, 2010, 320 pages.
Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she
won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for , music for , and books for .