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Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir Paperback – October 19, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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  • Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

O'Dwyer's harrowing and moving journey to adopt a Guatemalan baby offers a look into one person's experience in the frustratingly convoluted process of adopting from unscrupulous "facilitators." O'Dwyer had gone through an early divorce and menopause at age 32 before marrying Tim, a divorced dermatologist over 50. They put together an adoption dossier and found an L.A. agency that promised a quick adoption while cutting the bureaucratic red tape. Intent on adopting a certain "Stefany Mishell" (they fell in love with from her online photo), the desperate couple soon discovered that the agency's methods were dilatory and sloppy, neglecting the important legal paperwork, such as filing the requisite DNA test, and using shady notarios (private attorneys), so that in the end the promised six-month adoption extended over a year. Moreover, O'Dwyer's occasional visits to Guatemala, where she met Stefany's foster family and spent a weekend with the baby at the Camino Real hotel in Guatemala City, turned into a permanent residency, as she moved to a city north of the capital, Antiqua, to live with Stefany (now Olivia) until family court finalized the adoption. Dealing with the greedy foster family, managing the baby's early separation anxiety, navigating the middlemen and interminable waiting are all deftly handled in O'Dwyer's somber tale. (Nov.) (c)
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Review

"Kafkaesque.... An important and timely book about one woman's harrowing experience adopting a child from Guatemala."
--Shelf Awareness: Daily enlightenment for the book trade

"[H]arrowing and moving.... deftly handled."
--Publishers Weekly

"[A] richly written book, part thriller, part love story, part exposé.... [A] cautionary tale."
--Adoptive Families Magazine

"Regardless of age or intent, this is a riveting read."
--Marin Magazine

“I've never given birth,” writes O’Dwyer, “but I know the exact moment when I became a mother: 10:00A.M., September 6, 2002”–the moment she and her husband sat in a hotel lobby, awaiting the infant girl they hoped to adopt. Yet this celebratory moment was soon overshadowed by the corrupt Guatemalan adoption system. The author recounts her initial naiveté, how she and her husband shelled out vast amounts of money to adoption facilitators and notarios in order to assist them in wading through the red tape of a foreign adoption. Yet nearly two years and thousands of dollars later, O'Dwyer and her husband remained no closer to their goal. Rather than continue her transcontinental flights, the author quit her job and moved to Antigua to focus on her daughter's adoption full time. This decision led her into the dark side of adoption, a seedy terrain in which she was forced to weave through the barbs of a system set up to exploit the most money and resources from potential parents. Armed only with her elementary–level Spanish, she was forced to rely on a small band of trustworthy Guatemalan officials and potential American mothers struggling through the same experience. Her obsessive quest was constantly hampered by paperwork, signatures, DNA tests and countless other bureaucratic pitfalls. But despite the tragic circumstances, the optimistic author tells a hopeful tale in which she viewed every procedural misstep as a step leading her closer to her daughter.

A scathing critique on a foreign adoption system and the harrowing account of one woman’s attempt to fight it.

—Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2010

“On one level, Mamalita is the story of a woman's fight to bring home her Guatemalan-born daughter, in the face of huge obstacles. But Jessica O'Dwyer has written more than an adoption story. Her book explores the nature of parenthood—the fierce love and loyalty that makes it possible for us to do more than we ever knew we were capable of, inspired by the presence of more love than we knew we had to give. It's a terrific adventure story with an unlikely heroine who discovers, through her fight for her child, that she is stronger and braver than she ever knew. I was rooting for her all the way through to the book's gripping and deeply moving ending.”

— Joyce Maynard, author of Labor Day, At Home in the World, To Die For
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580053343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580053341
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Morrison on December 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is certainly a page-turner. I was extremely interested in the author's story of her trials in Guatemala. My own adoption of my now 7-year old daughter was also lengthy and harrowing, so I am quite familiar with the extremities of emotion O'Dwyer describes. And of course, her grit and determination are very much to be admired. That being said, I found the narrative to be rather disjointed in many places. Sometimes she would skip around or back chronologically, which I found confusing. At other times I was slightly unclear about a person's role in the narrative, or plot threads were begun and then dropped or left to dangle, incomplete. I often had to read sections twice before they (sort of) made sense. This was frustrating, because I really wanted to understand all of the nuances of this very interesting and compelling story. Overall, I would say it is certainly worthwhile, but more clarity and cohesiveness would have been helpful.
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Format: Paperback
just finished mamalita. i love memoirs and as an adoptive mom i wondered how she'd handle the issue. ended up not caring about either because this is such a wonderfully written journey for the reader that nothing else mattered. o'dwyer has created a beautifully executed literary experience that is part suspense thriller, part travelogue, part expose. she has written so beautifully that it also reads like poetry on the page. yet it is also journalistic in that she shines a light on an underground world of international adoption that reveals some ugly realities the world needs to face. we have to humanize this process for the adoptive parents sake, for the birth families sake and most of all for the children's sake. yet she does not sacrifice the beauty of the written word, evoking incredibly rich scenes of guatemala with incredibly insightful details of the experience of becoming a mother there. yep, i cried. and i'm finishing now to buy a bunch of these for christmas presents and for my book club as well. enjoy the read, folks!
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Having gone through the adoption process myself recently, I could relate to some of the stories, incidents and emotions described in the book. My major concern, was with the author's generalized representation of the people of Guatemala. I felt it was a one-sided description, focused on the individuals that made her particular process difficult. There was not any discussion of the warmth of the people, their love of children and their ability to adapt to and deal with adversity and poverty. The two main "characters" in her book which were the largest obstacles in her adoption process, were not even from Guatemala. I too found the adoption process vigorous and painstakingly paper-laden. However, I understood that the process is in place for the safety of the children. I not only fell in love with our child when we visited, but with the country and its people. They were gracious, kind and compassionate. I was saddened by the fact that none of these characteristics were reflected in the book. This is the most unique part of the adopted child's culture and I truly hope that as adoptive parents, we do everything we can to instill this in our children too.
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I have read this book 3 times. Every time I learn something else about what the author had to go through. I am picking this book up for Christmas presents for my family. This book will captivate you every second. Bravo for her courage. it should be a New york times Best Seller.
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This memoir had me from the start and I couldn't put it down until I finished. It is the true story of what one ordinary woman went through to achieve her dream of adopting a child from Guatemala after going through early menopause. She takes the reader through the emotional roller coaster and seemingly insurmountable obstacles she faced with grace and, amazingly, humor. I came away from this book completely in awe of the author's emotional strength and determination and also feeling very fortunate for the own comparatively "easy" way that I became a mother. My book group read this book last month and were fortunate enough to have the author as a guest speaker. Hearing her story in person was even more inspirational. This book will stay with me for a long time.
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I am an adoptive mom of two lovely girls from Guatemala. So this story was intriguing to me. I am saddened to learn of the many hoops adoptive parents must now jump through (well actually had to jump thru before the country closed down). It saddens me because the children are the ones who suffer the most. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir. The writing and editing were both good. I do recommend this book, especially to adoptive parents; or even young adult adoptees in a discovery of what some parents had to go through to get their children to their new homes.
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The author holds nothing back and for that I am grateful. She is a gifted writer who takes you on a harrowing journey to finally bring her daughter home. As an adoptive mom who's child died as we where waiting for him in Guatemala I have always wondered about the ins and outs of the conditions of the foster homes. Jessica answered some of those questions for me in her discoveries while waiting in Guatemala and finding out what so many of us never find out. Since the worst happened to us we were no longer so trusting. We scoured every lead to find a reputable agency and lawyer in Guatemala to help us adopt our now 9 yr old son. What a difference! We got him home in 5 mos time. I have always felt for those adopting from Guatemala who where stuck because of a corrupt lawyer and/or agency as we could have been in the same harrowing journey if our first son had survived. Would i have been just as strong!? What bravery this mother had! Wow! We were compelled to find and keep in contact with our sons birth family only months after our son came home. I am glad Jessica went into this about her own family too. Life is a crazy journey for sure. Thank you to Jessica for sharing hers.
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