A beautiful story of adoption, heartbreak and a mother’s love 36

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As I saw my new-born baby’s face for the first time I tried desperately to capture her face in my mind—to stamp it onto my eyelids. As she was taken from me I knew I might never see my daughter again.

With forced adoption so much in the news, I was keen to read The Secret Daughter by Kelly Rimmer.

Kelly’s first book was a good read; her second novel is not only a good read, it is a thoughtful, touching, careful retelling of one story of adoption. Kelly advises us that it is a work of fiction, but also that it is based in fact.

It is 2012 and Sabrina can’t wait to tell her parents she is having a baby. She is expecting them to be overjoyed, but their reaction nearly breaks her heart. She tries to get her mother, Megan, to talk about her experiences with pregnancy and birth but instead is met with an angry declaration “You were adopted”.

Sabrina is 37 years old and this is the first inkling she has of being adopted. She asks the natural questions, “Why?” “Who are my parents?”, “Why didn’t you tell me before this”. But the answers are not forthcoming; there is more to this story than the three words; secrets hide other secrets.

We then read the stories of Sabrina’s birth mother Lily and her desperate attempts to marry the father, James, and keep the baby. As it becoming clear the more we learn about forced adoption, the mothers had little say. In Lily’s case, she was a legal minor, 16 years old, and her unborn child was signed away by her father. Neither she, James, nor his parents could change the permission granted by that signature.

Megan knows the pain of getting pregnant, on more than one occasion, without delivering a living child. When she discovers that the inability to carry a child lies firmly with her, she immediately offers her husband a divorce. Although they discuss adoption, Megan feels she wants a child of her own and believes that eventually, this will happen – they will have the family they crave.

Rimmer shows considerable skill in writing in the voices of the three women Sabrina, Lily and Megan. Sometimes I feel Sabrina is too hard on the people who raised her, she finds no area of grey in their decisions. This was after all the 1970s and people thought very differently in those days about the baby born “out of wedlock”.

Nonetheless the stories Lily tells, of the hospital where she spent her pregnancy, are heart breaking; 1970s or not, thinking you were doing “the right thing” by the mother and baby does not excuse the way these girls were treated.

Finally given her own voice, Megan becomes a more sympathetic character than you might expect.

This novel made me angry, happy and sad; it takes a good book to get me arguing with its characters. I even found myself talking about adoption, both forced and willing, and using examples from this book to support the discussion.

I enjoyed Me Without You, Kelly’s first novel and the growth she shows as an author in her second The Secret Daughter is amazing. She exhibits more maturity and the ability to met the challenge of a difficult story with heart and feeling. I sincerely look forward to following her future literary career. Highly recommended. My ARC was provided by Bookouture via NetGalley.

The Secret Daughter, by Kelly Rimmer, is available from the publisher Bookouture.


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Karen O'Brien-Hall

I've had many careers in my life and loved each one! My new career blossomed when I retired and become an OAP. I am passionate about childhood literacy, books in general and my garden. I love Ballet, Opera, Concerts, Theatre, (both professional and community) and Movies. I tend to have opinions on most things and enjoy a good debate about the topic, not the person. In my thirties, I married my GOM (Gorgeous or Grumpy Old Man) the love of my life.

  1. “Forced” adoption?? It was a parental decision!

  2. No child should be brought into this world without being wanted by the parents.

    5 REPLY
    • In these days max I feel your right. But back when I was born the options weren’t there, in my mothers situation she really didn’t have a choice.

    • Listen to me Max Cordova, over 50 years ago you were treated as a slut and your child a bastard. If you had no where to turn to, and nowhere to go, I wonder what the righteous Max Cordova would do. You wouldn’t know how it feels to have walked a mile in these women’s shies. Be careful what you say in future.

    • I am glad that we are all living in a more enlightened world today and that we are able to chose when to have babies.

    • Yes max be quiet about this all of our babies where wanted and loved but as Helen said. We had no choices. The way we where treated was criminal. So mind your words you weren’t in my shoes. I was. And so where the other girls.

  3. I wanted my daughter so bad but my parents wouldn’t let me and in those days the embarrassment was all they where worried about not how the mum felt to love and see you babies face and eyes you automatically fall in love but the hurt when you walk out of that hospital with out your baby is so heart breaking. I nearly died. Only a mum in the same situation can under stand how empty you feel. It’s awful.

  4. the recent show-love child-although fictional i feel touched on the difficulties women faced when they became pregnant out of wedlock,it wasnt just the baby being taken away it was the dreadful treatment they recieved while waiting for the birth,society treated them as such low class citizens yet i do know plenty of women back in the day who were pregnant out of wedlock and somehow kept it quiet and then claimed the baby was premature 7-8mths after they married,this was acceptable,no questions asked!

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