Sunday, June 21, 2009

Book Review: FROM ASHES TO AFRICA--A MEMOIR

When Brian and I began talking seriously about adoption, I spent hours scouring the internet for information.  I found blogs to be the best source of information, as they were typically first-hand experiential accounts of people who were sharing their thoughts as they were going through the same process we would soon embark on ourselves.



The very first Ethiopian adoption blog I "stumbled" upon was Ethiopia or Bust, authored by Amy Bottomly. I write "stumbled" in quotes only because in retrospect, I can see that it was more a divine appointment than a random stumbling that landed me there. As it turns out, the Bottomlys are one of the better-known adoptive couples in the Ethiopian adoption community, as they were one of the first families to adopt from Ethiopia, and they were definitely one of the first to write a book about it!

From Ashes to Africa is Josh and Amy Bottomly's story of their journey from the "ashes" of a troubled marriage and infertility to the "gladness" of adopting their son Silas from Ethiopia.

The book begins with a quote from Frederick Buechner, "Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein."  And that is just was this couple did! The major thing that makes the book such a compelling read is the openness and vulnerability with which it is written.

Let me share a few of my favorite quotes from the book with you:

"Any time art touches your life with tears, whether through a story, song, film, or painting, it was wise to pay attention to those tears because your tears could help you find your heart. And if you found your heart, you found what was dear to God. If you found what was dear to God, you found the answer to how you should live your life."

This (above) quote was particularly meaningful to me, as I sensed that God might be calling us to international adoption, when I was moved to tears during the movie Slumdog Millionaire. I actually had to leave the theatre and go cry in the bathroom because the injustice to orphans depicted in that film so stirred my heart.

I was also incredibly impressed with the thoughtful way they shared how they have struggled emotionally and spiritually since meeting their baby's biological mother:

"I still feel a flood in my throat every time I think of saying goodbye to Hermela [the baby's birth mother]. I'm almost certain the entirety of my feelings in that moment will remain forever ineffable. Ambivalence is perhaps the best word I can muster to describe how I felt. Part of me felt the rightness of God fulfilling a dream of ours, the rightness of God meeting a need of Hermela's, and the rightness of Hermela's courage and sacrifice.  The other part of me felt the wrongness of adoption, the wrongness of broken families, and the wrongness of abject poverty....

In an ideal world, Hermela would never have had to give up her child for adoption--for whatever reasons....  In an ideal world, infertility would be nothing more than a footnote in the annals of medical history....  [All] of us on some level feel the wrongness of the world in our core. And maybe what that means is that until people like Hermela don't have to give up their children to infertile couples like us, none of us are meant to feel at peace in our skin."

I appreciated that the Bottomlys didn't try to paint a perfect picture or try to tie the loose ends of their feelings about their adoption into a neat and tidy bow. In a broken world, some things will always feel broken, even if they are redeemed, and that is okay.

"There are times, though, when I will recall moments from my journey to Ethiopia, and I will think to myself that Silas could have so easily grown up to become like the street children who approached our car, barefoot and ragged, their eyes hollowed with hunger, their hands cracked and callous as they begged for loose change.  When I think about that, along with meeting Hermela and seeing many of the children at the orphanage, and I think about how my adoption journey with Josh has changed everything from my marriage to my family, from my faith to my dreams, I quietly realize this truth:  maybe all along, I needed Silas more than Silas needed me."

I heartily recommend From Ashes to Africa to anyone considering adopting from overseas, as well as to anyone who is simply curious about international adoption.

5 comments:

Amy Bottomly said...

Thanks Tracy! Thanks for the kind words and thanks for taking the time to write a blog post about our book! Glad you enjoyed it... Congrats on adopting!! YEE!

kcinnova said...

While we have not been called to adopt, I am going to think long and hard about what moves me to tears...

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Those quotes are amazing Amy...you truly have a great heart. And yes, there is something wrong in a world where people are confronted with giving up a child that they love because of financial concerns. Thankfully, there is also something right in a world, where there are people like you and Tracy to step in and help these children and families, and thus to complete your own families.

Sara said...

The Bottomly blog was one of the first adoption blogs I found as we were thinking about international adoption. I think I went back and read the entire thing from start to the current post.

Journey to Jaden said...

I so need to read that book! I am heading to the book store now. I have a 24 hr flight there in 16 days (the count down) and what a great read for that trip:)