Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chosen by Chandra Hoffman — 320 pgs

Chloe Pinter is a social worker employed by a private adoption agency. Bringing together birth mothers and potential adoptive families always makes her feel useful and necessary, but lately, her job and clients are taking more and more of her time and the situations surrounding the adoptions are becoming more intrusive and dangerous. When the book opens, Chloe is working with Jason and Penny, a couple of teenage grifters who are trying to bully Chloe and the agency into paying exorbitant fees for the adoption of their child. Chloe is reluctant to work with Jason, for he’s not only menacing but manipulative and dangerous as well. When their son is finally born and placed with Francie and John McAdoo, Jason begins a campaign for compensation that will embroil not only Chloe and the Chosen Child agency, but a handful of unexpected players as well. Meanwhile, Eva and her husband, Paul, have just brought their new child home from the hospital after a difficult birth. Eva and Paul were once clients of Chosen Child, but not having been picked as adoptive parents, their luck changed when Eva finally got pregnant. But now something isn’t right, for as Eva and Paul attend to their new baby, Eva slips into a dangerous bout of postpartum depression and it’s all Paul can do to hold it all together. When Chloe unexpectedly bumps into Paul, he learns of the difficulties she’s having with her adrenaline junkie boyfriend, just as Chloe learns of Eva’s difficulties with the new baby. Slowly, and with great precision, all these people will become enmeshed and entwined in a strange and violent story revolving around the newborns in their lives, both the unwanted babies and the ones who have been longed for so desperately.

One of the things I liked most about this book was the gritty and slightly malevolent feel it had. From the instant I picked it up, the action and plotting were tight and felt expertly handled. The narrative was split between a handful of characters, and this, too, made the book feel very cohesive and suspenseful. The prose wasn't filled with pointless and aimless wandering, but instead, there was a directness that some would even call bluntness about the story, and it made for highly engrossing reading. There were several points-of-view shifts in this tale and each built layers upon layers of intrigue and mystery into an already compelling story that left me feeling slightly unbalanced and introspective throughout the whole ride.

None of the characters in this book were extremely likable. Except for Chloe, I had a hard time relating to anyone, but this proved to be an excellent decision in terms of Hoffman’s orchestrating of people and events. These people were selfish, violent and demanding, and they could never see their blessings, even when they got the things they had been dreaming of for so long. A lot of them lived just to cause drama and confusion, and I found them all to be manipulative, cruel and mentally warped, which provided a lot of fireworks on the page. Hoffman isn’t afraid to examine the darker sides of people’s personalities and get to the bottom of those emotions that we all hide deep in our mental closets. Grasping, savage and mercurial would be a few words I would use to describe the characters that made their homes between these covers.

This book highlighted the underside of the adoption industry, and when you read it, you’ll understand why I call it an industry. Birth mothers on drugs hoping for a payout that will enable them to effectively sell their children; adoptive parents who are prejudiced and can’t be happy even when they receive the child they’ve always wanted; and agency honchos who see gestating children as a source of revenue: they were all here, popping up their nefarious little heads to populate this tremendously scintillating and dark tale. In between bouts of adoption drama, Chloe is trying to make sense of her life, her career and the man whom she’s fallen in love with. Though there was a very dramatic and fulfilling conclusion to all this drama, one couldn’t help but ask questions about the very strange processes that are the hallmark of a private adoption agency. Hoffman does a great job investing her damaged characters with real emotion and creates for them a catharsis of sorts, though it didn’t turn out at all like I expected it to.

This was a book that I picked up during a busy week and devoured in no time at all. It was haunting and gripping, and though the reader never really knows where Hoffman is going with her audacious and gritty story, I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed with its strange developments and intrepid conclusion. The pugnacious characters were something to be savored as well. If you’ve ever wondered about the hidden underbelly of adoption, then this is definitely the book for you. It will keep you in its clutches until that final page is turned.

Author Photo About the Author

Chandra Hoffman has been an orphanage relief worker in Romania, a horse trainer in the Caribbean, a short order cook in a third world hospital, the director of a U.S. adoption program, and an event planner for Philadelphia’s Main Line elite. A graduate of Cornell University and Antioch’s MFA program, she has settled back in her hometown outside of Philadelphia with her husband, three young children, and an ever-changing menagerie. Chosen is her first novel.

Visit Chandra at her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @chandraKhoffman.

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Wednesday, November 9th:The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, November 10th:Books Like Breathing
Friday, November 11th:Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Monday, November 14th: As I turn the pages
Wednesday, November 16th:Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, November 17th:Life In Review
Monday, November 21st:Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Tuesday, November 22nd:In the Next Room
Wednesday, November 23rd:Review from the Heart
Monday, November 28th:The Book Chick
Tuesday, November 29th:A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Wednesday, November 30th:A Bookish Way of Life

This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Beth F said...

The adoption industry has intrigued me for years. I have a lawyer friend who changed his specialty to adoption after he and his wife ran into roadblock after roadblock on their journey to adopt in the early 80s.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've seen this one around and it does sound good. I enjoyed Anne Hood's book (fictional) about adoption in China.

Jenny said...

How fascinating! And upsetting, I imagine -- I just read a book about a woman whose adoptive child was taken away at the end of the trial period, and it was pretty upsetting.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I guess I can see where you might want this information if you are considering adoption on either end (although hmmm, it doesn't sound uplifting). But I have read such horrifying reviews of this book. I would be very hesitant to pick it up, even though your review is excellent.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I also have heard the characters in this book are not likeable. Even though I know that can easily mean good writing, I prefer to spend time with characters I like!

bermudaonion said...

Oh, wow, I need to read this one soon. We have friends who adopted a baby two years ago and the whole thing felt like they were buying the baby to me. It's too long a story to write in here but, as happy as I am for them, something about the whole thing felt wrong to me.

Jennifer | Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This sounds like an intense read. I would really have to be in the mood for this one.

Anonymous said...

This sounds absorbing. It sounds like a good choice for me since I just finished a book that dealt with adoption.

Audra said...

Sounds intense -- but hits too close to home. Friends of ours were embroiled in exactly this situation and nearly lost the adoption when the birth mother asked for more money under the table. When my friends reported it to their social worker, the birth mother got an abortion. Devastating for everyone -- and really brought home how much of an industry this is, and how scary it can be. Great review.

Jenners said...

This sounds good in an intense way. I like books like that every so often. Adoption is an issue I've haven't seen addressed much in fiction actually … I'll have to check this one out.

Unknown said...

Adoption Industry is the perfect term for the system and the process of adoption in this book. It's no wonder social workers, directors and others who work in the adoption industry burn out pretty quickly.

This wasn't a favorite book of mine, I think partly because I didn't really like any of the characters, but I learned a lot and I still think about the adoption issues and some other parts of the book.

Another great review, Heather!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I recognize the title of this novel, but it really hasn't been on my radar. Until now.

Probably a great book for discussion ... I started thinking about other ethically questionable 'industries' (organ and bone marrow donation, for example ... when people offer to do it for a price.)

nomadreader said...

I'm fascinated by adoption, and this book sounds riveting. I foolishly dismissed it lighthearted women's fiction from the cover, so I'm glad you reviewed it. It sounds incredible and heartbreaking. I confess, too, how much I've learned about adoption from 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, and I remind myself to use the active nomenclature: 'choosing' adoption rather than 'giving up' a child for adoption.

Athira said...

Sounds like a very thought-provoking book! I didn't know that the adoption industry exists - that's a lot of sordid affairs happening! Sounds like a fabulous book!

Ti said...

I've passed this book over before but your review has piqued my interest. What I love about your reviews is that you always include your gut reaction and I soooo get that. If a book upsets me emotionally (good, bad, angry, etc.) then it's done its job.

Harvee said...

Adoption is controversial in many ways, often for good reason. Too bad the children may be the main ones to suffer in all this. Excellent review.

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

unfortunately it can be a horrific racketeering industry from private to public agencies...sounds like someone finally wrote a "fictional" account to blow the lid of a very real tragic every day occurrence ~ excellent review Heather

Jenny said...

It's funny that I'm reading your review of this today, because I just had a dream last night that I adopted a child on my case load, LOL! (Not an actual child on my case load, but in my dream I apparently knew the kid). I had been interested in this book when it came out but read a lot of mixed reviews. Based on yours, though, I'm almost certain I'll like it and now I really want to read it!! I've always been intrigued by adoption too. And I did not realize until reading your review that there was a malevolent side to this story, lol.

Lisa said...

I really have been living under a log - I hadn't heard of this one but it sounds great. I know almost nothing about the adoption industry; sounds like it's a good thing I never found myself needing to make use of the services. I'm definitely adding this one to the wish list.

Anonymous said...

I read this one last year and completely agree with what you've said here. The book was completely gripping but in a train wreck sort of way - I just couldn't bring myself to look away. I've considered adoption myself (for the future, not anytime soon!) but the book definitely made me wary of the process. Great review, Heather!

Anonymous said...

I can see that this is the kind of book that will suck me in and make me forget about everything else until I get to the last page!

Thanks for being on the tour.

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