China’s “one child” policy has led to the overseas adoption of many Chinese girls. As young women, they often seek to find their birth parents or at least try to learn more about the circumstances of their birth, their separation or relinquishment or abandonment, and their subsequent adoption.
In Kay Bratt’s novel, Chasing China, the heroine, Mia, was adopted from a Chinese orphanage by a fine, loving, middle-class, Caucasian American family, and became the beloved little sister for three older brothers, a little girl the family eagerly sought.
On originally receiving Mia, her adoptive mother may well have thought just what actress and author Nia Vardalos wrote in her book, Instant Mom, “Because now I know what I have been waiting for, I know exactly why the other processes didn’t work. I know I was supposed to wait for this little girl.” Unfortunately, that degree of certainty often eludes the adoptee, however.
Even when an adoptee has an excellent, loving relationship with her adoptive parents, she will usually be highly curious about her biological parents. We like to have roots. We like to understand where some of our traits originated. We care to know about those who conceived us.
In his book The Inner Circle, Brad Meltzer wrote about the origins quest undertaken by another adopted woman, “She wasn’t tracking down her father to learn more about him. She was tracking him down to learn more about herself.” Both motives drove Mia.
Much loved, Mia still feels she has a “hole” in her heart; she is almost desperate to understand why her birth parents gave her up, as they had reportedly left her to be found at a railway station when she was an infant. Hoping to find answers, she resolutely heads to China.
At the airport, where their college student Mia is departing for Shanghai, her father reassures her mother, “Let her chase her dreams—remember they almost always come home.” Loving parents must sometimes let children go, at least temporarily. Mia chases her dream in southeastern China, with quite unexpected results. Romantic love, filial love, and parental love contend against the brutal realities of human greed and poverty and the destitution of China’s street children. The resolution of Mia’s search is deeply satisfying.
A central character in the book is a girl somewhat younger than Mia, the caring, lovely, and lovable Tingting; I felt immediately drawn to her, as Tingting is the original given name of my China-born wife; my Tina’s kindness, quiet strength and inner and outer beauty have symbolized for me much that is admirable in the Chinese. I am interested in China partly because China gave me Tina.
Mia and Tingting and an American-Chinese young man, hotel management intern Jax, work with several admirable American expatriates and sympathetic and brave Chinese nationals to offset the injustices of corrupt Chinese government officials and vicious criminals who exploit many of the orphans and in some cases caused them to be separated from their families.
This touching and uplifting novel is largely based on truth itself, the result of author Kay Bratt’s recent four years in China, where she became deeply involved in trying to improve the conditions of the children in an orphanage in Suzhou, a city not far from Shanghai. These destitute children’s stories form a somber backdrop to this tale of love. Ms. Bratt is also much involved in issues of adoption in America and abroad.
More broadly, some of the issues associated with adoption logically extend to children of our far-too-numerous broken marriages, where fathers [and, less often, mothers] are long gone. Abandonment, real or imagined, hurts these children deeply.
Kay Bratt knows her stuff, writes clearly and movingly. She has given us a series of best-selling novels dealing with related Chinese themes. This is the first novel of hers I have read, one I loved and will not forget.
Dr. Cooper is a retired scientist, now a writer and writing coach. His first book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, was published by Outskirts Press in 2011 and is available from Outskirts Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, in paperback and ebook formats, as are two memoirs he co-authored, The Shield of Gold and Kidnapped Twice, and two memoirs he edited, High Shoes and Bloomers and But…at What Cost. On Twitter, he is @douglaswcooper. His blog is http://douglaswinslowcooper.blogspot.com.
For more about adoption, the plight of Chinese orphans, and Kay Bratt’s novels, see: http://lorilschafer.blogspot.com/2014/08/akin-to-truth-identity-and-adopted-child.html, http://www.facebook.com/AnOrphansWish, and http://kaybratt.com/.