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Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's Journey Hardcover – October 4, 2004

8 customer reviews

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$28.95 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While memoirs by foster parents and adopted children crowd bookshelves, we haven't heard as much from the women who've given up those children for adoption. McElmurray may seem a typical birth mother—a working-class teen unprepared to raise a child—until she describes her own upbringing. When McElmurray was 12 or 13, her mother, gripped by a cleanliness fetish, still insisted on supervising her on the toilet, wiping her bottom. Both daughter and father had to shower in the garage before coming inside. Meals, too, could be messy, so they ate only processed, packaged foods. When McElmurray started dating, her mother's vigilance heightened, and before long, her compulsions resulted in divorce. McElmurray moved in with her father, but thanks to his lax supervision and lack of contraceptive coaching, she was pregnant at 15. In Kentucky in 1971, a girl could run away and do drugs for a while—which McElmurray did—before coming home and marrying. Ignoring her father's pleas, the author still signed the baby over for adoption. That McElmurray made it out of her trailer-park marriage, out of secretarial and fast food jobs, through college and on to teaching creative writing courses is admirable. That she reached the self-awareness to birth this remarkable memoir is a gift both to her son and to readers. 22 photos.
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Review

"This is a very moving and pungent narrative, which quickly engages the reader's imagination, as its gorgeously remembered details spill onto the page, not necessarily in chronological order but by patchwork design and as if on their own."--Beverly Lowry, author of Crossed Over: A Murder, a Memoir


"Graceful, shocking, sensuous, and gritty, this book questions consequences. It ends at the beginning and begins at the end. A wonderful, almost unbearably honest book.”--Sheri Reynolds, The Rapture of Canaan


"Riveting and disturbing, McElmurray's poetic language and utter honesty lift this story into the realm of grace—finally, this dark memoir is an enlightening and redemptive work of art."--Lee Smith


"This book bears powerful testimony to the saving grace of imagination."--Tennessean


"Courageous in its honesty, stunning in its vision. McElmurray is a writer of enormous talent who explores the consequences of loss and grace and recovery in this hauntingly beautiful story of her life."--Gwyn Hyman Rubio, author of Icy Sparks


"McElmurray transforms some of her life's more difficult experiences into pure poetry; where there once was pain, she creates beauty."--Rosemary Daniell, author of Fatal Flowers


"Not only a deeply moving personal story that takes great courage to tell, but also a beautiful and haunting exploration of the nature and the meaning of motherhood and love. McElmurray's lyrical, incantatory voice casts a magic spell."--Janice Eidus, author of The Celibacy Club


"In this fresh, painfully honest, but very wise and beautifully written book, Karen McElmurray tells us how deeply some decisions affect us, ever afterwards."--Reeve Lindburgh

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; First Edition edition (October 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082032681X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820326818
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,768,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Johns on January 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First, the book is NOT a biography; it is, however, a memoir and I challenge anyone to recall with perfection every occurrence in his or her lives. In addition, yes, this book is indeed a journey. It is a journey through the nonlinear realm of memories. It is a journey through the expansion and compression of time. The expansion and compression that goes on in our minds and hearts as we recall, or attempt to recall, those instances in our past that framed our future. It is indeed a bumpy ride that McElmurray takes us on through those oscillations. However, it is truly a marvelous work and I compliment the author not only her bravery but for her creative ability to take us on this "journey" for redemption, on this "journey" for closure and ultimately to the beginning of a new "journey" for the author. The "journey" for her and her son to come to terms with all that has happened. A beautifully written book it is more like poetry than prose. Like a hushed cry, it will call you into the memories and will hold on to you until the very end.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miller Oberman on March 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's Journey is an astounding work of creative nonfiction. Rather than starting at the focal point of the story, her teenage pregnancy and subsequent choice to give her son up for adoption, McElmurray continuously moves backward as well as forward. In lyrical passages where the language is as beautiful as the story is difficult, she winds us through her childhood and adolescence. Maybe this meandering is what renders the characters so starkly authentic, for isn't that the way memory truly works, each moment connected as much to the moments preceding it as to the ones that follow? Surrendered Child is the moving story of a young mother's haunting choice. But this book goes beyond the story it tells, the narrative is a leaping off point and the water below contains the challenge to see what it means to be wonderfully, painfully, alive. As I finished the book I was reminded of the end lines of Adrienne Rich's great poem, The Novel. Rich writes, "You knew the end was coming / You knew beyond the ending lay / your own, unwritten life."
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susan Rochette on June 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
She was barely fifteen. She was scared and full of Jesus and her baby. She had faith in the sacrament of marriage but that let her down. She was raised by a germophobiac Appalachian mother who surely thought cleanliness was next to godliness. In that way, her mother tried to save her daughter. After that, her daughter saved her son by giving him up for adoptiion in a system of adoption that was still relatively safe.

She never gave up thought of him and, mericifully, the Red Sea of Government finally parted for this mother and her son to be reunited.

Karen McElmurray is an enormously gifted writer with a heart larger than essential to anyone who would dare to claim the valor of motherhood.

This book is a celebration of birth, voice, recovery. It also stands as a shame to a country still divided on both sides of the "issue" by the "disposability" of the "misbegotten."

Read this book to know honesty, acceptance of responsibility, and how, if it's not too late, we can all find our way back to the womb.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joseph M. Soll on January 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The gripping story of a woman who, coerced into losing her son to adoption, struggles for emotional survival and ultimately searches for the child she lost. Don't pass this book up!
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