The Forgotten Garden

I read a lot of adoptee blogs, and one message I often encounter is that adoptees don’t always see adoption as entirely (or at all) positive. I recently read “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton, which did an excellent job of expressing this idea. Spoiler alert: if you plan to read this book, or haven’t finished it, you may want to stop reading this post now!

In the book, Nell discovers – at 21-years-old – that she was adopted. This news alters the path that her life takes and even changes her attitude toward herself and others. Although she loves her adoptive family, she spends the rest of her life looking for her first family and never again feels that she belongs anywhere.

In one of the early chapters, the narrator describes Nell’s reaction to the news:

“But Pa’s secret had changed everything. His words had tossed the book that was her life into the air and the pages had been blown into disarray , could never be put back together to tell the same story. She found she couldn’t look at her sisters with seeing her own foreignness …. Things had changed and she could no longer meet her father’s eye. It wasn’t that she loved him any less, only that the easiness had disappeared. The affection she had for him, invisible, unquestioned in the past, had gained a weight, a voice. It whispered when she looked at him, ‘you’re not really his.’ She couldn’t believe, no matter how vehemently he insisted, that he loved her as much as he loved her sisters …. She was a lie, had been living a lie, and she refused to do so any longer. ”

Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra, finds out about Nell’s adoption after her death. Cassandra has her own reaction to the news:

“It had come to her in a wave. The certainty of her grandmother’s loneliness …. She suddenly understood an aspect of Nell she’d known very well. Her isolation, her independence, her prickliness. ‘She must have felt so alone when she realized she wasn’t who she’d thought she was.'”

I’m not an adoptee, so I certainly can’t attest to the truth of these feelings. But, I do appreciate that this book presented a different side of adoption, that it explored the negative affects that adoption can have on both children and adults.


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