Saturday, September 25, 2021

"The Foundling" by Paul Joseph Fronczak & Alex Tresniowski

Mid-last week, I saw an ad on CNN for an upcoming documentary -- to be aired  tomorrow/Sunday night (Sept. 26th) -- called "The Lost Sons."  As I watched, I realized the storyline sounded very familiar. A while back, I'd read a story/review of a fascinating-sounding book called "The Foundling," and bought a paperback copy when I saw it in the bookstore (albeit it had been languishing in my "to be read" pile ever since then). I went to my bookshelves and pulled it out. Sure enough, same guy, same story. 

I always like to read the book before I see the movie, if possible -- but I was in the middle of reading "Where the Crawdads Sing" (reviewed here), and I wanted to finish it before I started yet another book. I closed "Crawdads" yesterday/Friday morning, and picked up "The Foundling" later that afternoon. Could I get through the 347 pages in the 48+ hours or so before the documentary aired on Sunday (tomorrow) night?? 

I decided to give it a shot -- and fortunately, I found it to be a fast and captivating read. I finished it tonight -- about 30 hours after I opened it. :)  

"The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me" is the jaw-dropping true story of Paul Joseph Fronczak. When he was 10 years old, Paul was snooping in the crawl space of his family's Chicago home for hidden Christmas presents when he stumbled on some boxes of old letters and newspaper clippings that changed his life forever. The clippings told Paul that he'd been kidnapped (!) from the hospital on the day he was born (in April 1964) by an unidentified woman in a nurse's uniform. 

Two years later, a little boy, approximately two years of age, was abandoned in a stroller in front of a department store in Newark, New Jersey.  Blood tests were inconclusive -- no DNA testing back then! -- but the heartbroken Fronczaks immediately identified the boy as their missing son, legally adopted him and took him home to Chicago. The story of Paul's abduction and abandonment two years later was never referred to, even after the boy's discovery in the crawl space. But Paul couldn't help but notice that he looked nothing like his parents or younger brother, or that he seemed to have little in common with them either. 

As an adult, Paul bounced around the country from job to job and relationship to relationship. Then, in 2012, he became the father of a baby girl. Questions from the baby's doctors about his family's medical history prompted Paul to take a DNA test and begin investigating the truth of his origins:  Was he really Paul Joseph Fronczak, the kidnapped baby? If not, then who was he? And if he wasn't Paul Fronczak, what had happened to the real Paul? 

This was an absolutely fascinating story, with many elements that have always intrigued me:  it's a true crime/mystery/detective story that delves into issues of genealogy and adoption, and raises interesting questions about how we define family and identity. 

(Interestingly, the Fronczaks had had a stillborn son before Paul was born. Imagine being a stillbirth mother in the early 1960s, when such losses were generally brushed under the carpet, only to have your "rainbow" baby literally stolen from your arms in the hospital...!)   

The story ends in late 2015 (the book was published in 2017). I've been trying to avoid finding out too many spoilers about the documentary before I watch it tomorrow night, but inevitably a few crept in... I will say that I think it reveals some developments in Paul's story that have unfolded since the book was published.  

If you wind up watching the documentary, let me know what you think! 

A solid 4 stars on Goodreads. If I had one criticism of this book, it would be that there's a very large cast of characters, and it was sometimes confusing to remember who was related to who and how. A family tree or "cast of characters" list might have been helpful -- although, to be fair, it also might have spoiled some of the surprises.  

This was Book #48 read to date in 2021 (and Book #4 finished in September), bringing me to 133% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 22 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Friday, September 24, 2021

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens

"Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens is this month's pick for the NoMo/Gateway Women book club (and yes, there is a childless angle/character in the story, albeit childlessness is not a particular focus). It's been in my "to read" pile forever, and it's been enthusiastically recommended by several of my friends (and even dh!! who picked it off our bookshelves, read it earlier this year and loved it). 

The protagonist/heroine is Kya, who grows up alone and unschooled in a shack deep in the marshes near the coast of North Carolina after her mother, her siblings and finally her abusive alcoholic father abandon her and leave her to fend for herself. She survives by foraging for mussels and fish, and selling them to a kind black man who runs a nearby general store.  With little human contact, she becomes a keen observer of the natural world around her, known to the curious locals as "the Marsh Girl." 

The story develops in two tracks that gradually merge: Kya's solitary growing up years in the 1950s and '60s, and a murder mystery that grips the nearby town in 1969. 

I'll admit, this one was slow going for me, initially. The writing was beautiful, but I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. Once I got midway through the book, though, I couldn't stop turning the pages. 

4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 on Goodreads. It was, in the end, a really, really good read -- but I was expecting it to knock my socks off, and it didn't quite do that for me, so I don't feel like I can give it 5 stars. 

"Where the Crawdads Sing" was a Reese (Witherspoon)'s Book Club pick, and Witherspoon has produced the movie version, to be released next year. British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones, who was an amazing Marianne in the screen adaptation of "Normal People," will star as Kya. (David Strathairn, whom I have adored ever since "The Days & Nights of Molly Dodd," years ago, will play lawyer Tom Milton.) 

This was Book #47 read to date in 2021 (and Book #3 finished in September), bringing me to 131% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 21 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"Still Glides the Stream" by D.E. Stevenson (re-read)

My D.E. Stevenson fan group just completed our group read of "Still Glides the Stream," which I read earlier this summer and reviewed here.  It's the story of Will Hastie, who returns home to Scotland after 12 years in the military during and after the Second World War. His best friend from boyhood, Rae, died during the war, and Rae's younger sister Patty is engaged to her cousin Hugo, who will now inherit her father's estate. Before he died, Rae wrote to Patty, hinting at a big secret he hopes to share with the family on his next leave home. When Patty shares the letter with Will, he decides to head to France for a holiday to investigate...  

The book is not without its flaws -- there were certain elements that bothered me -- but nevertheless, the themes of post-war grief and loss and trying to move forward resonated with me too. As a bonus, we also get a brief visit to Amberwell -- the setting of two other Stevenson books -- and a glimpse at what's happened to some of the characters we grew to know and love in those novels. 

As usual, our group read deepened my appreciation of this book, as well as my awareness of its flaws -- but not enough to affect my Goodreads rating.  My initial rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, still stands. 

(Next up, we'll be reading & discussing Stevenson's "Gerald and Elizabeth.") 

This was Book #46 read to date in 2021 (and Book #2 finished in September), bringing me to 128% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 20 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

Monday, September 20, 2021

#MicroblogMondays: Cottage weekend

Dh & I just spent a fabulous weekend at his cousin's cottage/lake home, along with BIL & SIL. We're totally exhausted (not to mention stiff & sore from climbing up & down a long and steep set of stone steps leading to & from the lakeside dock...!), but we had a fabulous time. It was the first time since COVID-19 began 18 months ago that we've been away or spent any significant amount of time with anyone outside of BIL & his family (with the small and recent exceptions of that half-hour visit with PND and a couple of hours visiting stepMIL and family). We all get along well with this cousin & his wife, and it was SO NICE to be able to socialize and experience some normalcy again! 

All of us were fully vaccinated; dh's cousin works mostly from home, his wife is currently not working, their daughter is away at college (we Facetimed with her), and their teenaged son goes to an expensive private school that follows fairly comprehensive COVID protocols. The wife, SIL & I went on a tour of local artists' studios on Saturday afternoon, with many of the displays taking place outdoors, and masking and social distancing measures firmly in place.  The weather was absolutely glorious -- a little chilly (especially after sundown and before noon) but almost entirely clear and sunny. There was food, wine, board games, boat rides, walks down isolated backroads (where we spotted deer and wild turkeys), hot dog and marshmallow roasts (and s'mores -- would you believe I've never had one before?), and lots and lots of laughter.  :)  

There was also a lot of conversation: about the kids (of course...!), about family issues and dynamics (in both general and specific senses...!), about cottage life, about the corporate world and retirement, about perimenopause and midlife crises and why nobody talks about these things and why women's health issues are largely ignored, under-studied and under-funded. 

Sitting on the dock on Sunday afternoon as our visit drew to a close, SIL mentioned Younger Nephew and his wife are seeing a fertility specialist (which dh & I already knew). :(   Cousin's Wife mentioned that (as dh & I had suspected at the time) she had struggled with secondary infertility after their first child was born and she was on the verge of seeing a specialist herself when she miraculously got pregnant just before the appointment (of course, right?!). 

But that got ME talking too -- a little -- about my own infertility experiences. I agreed with SIL & Cousin's Wife that Younger Nephew and his wife are still young and have time and options, but emphasized that it was a good thing they were tackling the issue now, and also that they shouldn't feel railroaded by the doctor/clinic into doing anything they weren't comfortable with. I even said that we had considered adoption but found it to be a far more complex matter than most people realize, and ultimately decided it was not for us.  It wasn't the full story, by far, but still, I don't think I've ever spoken that frankly to one of dh's family members about these things before, not even to SIL. 

And, while I didn't speak very much about the childless experience specifically, it did not escape me that it was still World Childless Week. Knowing that thousands of other childless women were being brave enough to go public with at least some aspects of their own stories this past week gave me some courage to reveal a little more of myself to the people around me as well.  

I was proud of myself.  ;) 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

We spent a lot of time sitting out here, enjoying the view 
and the peace & quiet. 
(Occasional boat traffic excepted.)  

Taking a walk down a road less travelled.  ;) 
(Lots of deer and wild turkeys sighted.
It's Crown land/a wildlife preserve... no hunting permitted.) 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Seven: Moving Forwards

Day Seven of World Childless Week  -- the final day -- is focused on "Moving Forwards:" 

When did you know you’d started to move forwards? Did you wake up one morning and decide today was the day to makes changes or did you reflect over the last year and see subtle differences? Perhaps you accepted an invite to an event that you would have previously declined attending? 

What has changed in your life and how does it make you feel?

Whenever anyone asks me this question, I think back to one particular incident, at Christmastime, a few years after we had thrown in the towel on infertility treatments, which showed me that perhaps I was further down the road of acceptance than I had realized.  I wrote about it here

Another would be my ability/willingness to enter a Baby Gap store. Once, it was a source of pain, to be avoided. I eventually did get to the point where I could go in to buy a baby shower gift. These days, I love to go there to shop for Little Great-Nephew, albeit the little girls' racks still have the power to give me pangs... 

There are probably other markers that I've written about over the years, although I can't recall any other specific posts to share here with you right now. The passage of time and looking back on certain milestones will often bring a shock of recognition of how things have changed and how differently I feel now than I did then. One advantage of getting older is that fewer and fewer people ask and hint and prod you about pregnancy plans... although eventually, you start getting questions about how many grandchildren you have instead...!  

One thing I remember from our pregnancy loss support group days is that you never realized just how far you'd come down this road less travelled until someone new arrived, fresh and raw in their own grief. I still see that to some extent today when I read social media posts and responses from younger women who are new to the stunning realization that they will not have the children they assumed they would have. 

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and several  live webinars -- including several that will explore creativity and self-compassion. Stephanie Phillips, WCW founder, will also be hosting a live webinar on "Ways to Remember and Release the Grief of Childlessness," at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America. All webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Seven page for anyone who cannot make the live events. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage.  But I will look forward to catching up when we get back home!)  

Saturday, September 18, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Six: We Are Worthy

The Day Six theme of World Childless Week is "We Are Worthy." 

Do you feel worthy, or has society and the increase of pronatalism made you feel unworthy? Do we need to change our own narrative before we can rediscover the worth we hold as unique individuals, independent of our circumstances? What makes us worthy as a human being, the ability to give birth or a heart that is supportive, encouraging, open-minded, loving and caring? 

It’s time to explore and celebrate our worth.   

Three years ago, there was a summit for childless people during National Infertility Awareness Week on the theme of "We Are Worthy," and I wrote about it and my thoughts on the subject of worthiness here. I can't think of any others I've written about worth/worthiness in particular, but I have pointed out examples of pronatalism and how the childless/free experience has been marginalized, when I've found them. I didn't know the term "pronatalism" when I first started this blog, so they're all tagged "mommy mania," which was the best I could come up with at the time. Someday, perhaps, I'll go through them all and change them!  (There's 140+ of them, so I'm not in any rush!  lol)  

On the flip side, I suppose, would be the posts I've written about or touching on feminism, tagged as "the f word." I was brought up thoroughly steeped in the second-wave feminist messages of the 1970s (for good and for bad);  I have always believed and often said that I am more than my uterus. Unfortunately, that's still not the message that society tends to send us or the people around us....!  

The "bible" on pronatalism from a childfree (by choice) perspective would be "The Baby Matrix" by Laura Carroll (which I reviewed here).  A real eye-opener, and highly recommended!  

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and several  live webinars. All but one of them will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Six page for anyone who cannot make the live events. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage.  But I will look forward to catching up when we get back home!)  

Friday, September 17, 2021

World Childless Week, Day Five: Have You Considered Adoption?

It's Day Five of World Childless Week, and today's theme tackles the ever-popular question (NOT) "Have You Considered Adoption?

So many of us (too many of us) have had this comment thrown in our face without any consideration of our feelings. How did it make you feel and how did you respond? Did you tell the truth or laugh it off, because sometimes that is the easiest response? Did you try to adopt and face unexpected hurdles, criticism and heartbreaking endings? Was adoption a conversation that split your relationship? 

It’s time to tell the truth about why this comment hurts so much.

Most of my posts on this subject (including reviews of relevant books I've read and movies/TV shows we've seen) have been tagged "adoption."  In particular, I would point you to this post from 2015, in which I expound (at some length) on "The A word: Why we didn't adopt."  

Check out today's content on the WCW site, including community members' contributions and a live webinar at 7 p.m. UK time/2 p.m. Eastern Time in North America titled "Oops! I Completely Forgot About the Adoption Option, Thanks for Reminding Me" (lol), hosted by Stephanie Phillips, founder of World Childless Week, and featuring a stellar panel -- including Jess of  Finding a Different Path (and formerly My Path to Mommyhood)!  This webinar will be recorded and uploaded to the Day Five page for anyone who cannot make the live event. 

(Unfortunately, that would include ME, lol -- we will be heading up north for a weekend at dh's cousin's cottage at that time.  But I will look forward to watching when we get back home!)