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The Waiting: The True Story of a Lost Child, a Lifetime of Longing, and a Miracle for a Mother Who Never Gave Up Paperback – April 1, 2015
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When author LaGrow heard her grandmother Minka's story of her first daughter--conceived as a result of rape nearly 80 years earlier, when her grandmother was 16; born in secret; and then placed for adoption--she could hardly imagine that it was all true. Yet the adoption file contained indisputable evidence: decades worth of Minka's letters asking for news of this baby she had named Betty Jane. Unbelievably, that same baby, now also a grandmother and named Ruth, was seeking her biological mother and had obtained the previously sealed adoption record. Through many cross-country meeting between the women and their families, LaGrow came to know the stories of both women's lives through the decades during which they had been separated and their ultimate and utter joy when reunited. While the presence of some historical details distracts from the rhythm of the story, LaGrow tells Minka's story with candor that makes the characters come alive. It is a stunning story of forgiveness, faithfulness, and persistent hope.--Publishers Weekly
"The Waiting" offers up the poignant and true story of a lost child and a mother who never gave up searching for her, and gathers decades of secret letters from a mother reflecting her perpetual agony wondering how her daughter is doing in life. As her reflection turns to an all-out search, readers follow her progress, begun when she was raped by a stranger in the woods and following her search for God's insights along the way. The result is a title that blends biography with spiritual reflection and a vivid, true search that readers will find engrossing.--Midwest Book Review
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Author Cathy La Grow brings Minka and Ruth's story to life. "The Waiting" reads like a fiction novel, and the wonder lies in realizing that it is a true story - a story of family, faith, and the redemptive power of love. It is a story that will bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your face. I guarantee that, once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down.
This is Cathy La Grow's debut book. We can only hope that it is the first of many.
And I was right. Not only do I want to share my copy, but I want to encourage every person I know to buy their own. The Waiting is a non-fiction book that reads like a fictional novel--but it's even more powerful, because it's completely true.
The story chronicles the life of Minka DeYoung Disbrow who grew up on the plains of South Dakota, a shy and innocent farm girl who, at the age of sixteen, was accosted by a stranger at a picnic. For a young girl who still believed the stork delivered babies, she was shocked to discover she was pregnant.
Her parents sent her to the House of Mercy to deliver the baby. Minka was to have the baby, and then come home and pretend as if nothing had happened. But, for Minka, no amount of pretending would allow her to forget her sweet baby, Betty Jane. She knew the baby went to a minister and his wife, but that was little solace for the years of pain.
The book follows Minka's life through the Great Depression, WWII, getting married, giving birth to another daughter (eighteen years after the first), as well as a son. We see Minka as a hardworking wife, mother, landlady, daycare provider, and employee who traverses the country, and eventually ends up in California. We see her hardships and her joys, and our hearts are woven around this amazing, courageous woman.
For seventy-seven years, Minka would mourn the loss of her baby girl. But on the day of her baby's seventy-seventh birthday, when Minka was ninety-four, she would ask God to allow her to see her daughter, at least once.
The very same day, back in South Dakota, a judge opened Betty Jane's adoption record, at the request of a woman named Ruth Lee--once known as sweet baby, Betty Jane. The adoption file contained over a hundred letters from Minka. And Ruth soon discovered Minka was still alive.
My heart broke for Minka, and when her dream is finally realized, after seventy-seven years of waiting, I sobbed. I've never cried like that while reading a book before. This is a powerful love story, not only between a mother and a daughter, but between God and His people. We see the hand of God woven into every little detail, and it's truly remarkable.
Minka didn’t suspect she was pregnant, in fact still believed that babies were brought by storks. Her mother suspected something was physically not right with her daughter, who then reluctantly told about the sexual assault in a dusty field that had happened three months earlier. Minka had never told anyone about the attack, including her mother and her precious sister, because she had no idea what it was all about except that it hurt and she was ashamed. She suffered in the silence of ignorance and embarrassment.
The revelation set about an involved plan that first sent Minka to a relative, then to a home for pregnant girls where she had the baby. Two compassionate women ran the home, made all the arrangements for the baby to be adopted, and steadfastly refused Minka’s continuous pleas over the next thirty years for any information about little Betty Jane (the name she had given the baby).
A Lutheran pastor and his wife raised Ruth Lee (the baby’s new identity). She had a happy life with her family and never had any desire to learn about her birth mother. She became the mother of five children, including a NASA astronaut and a West Point graduate who became an Army Lt. Colonel. She developed some health issues at age 77 and her children pleaded with her to get medical information about her birth parents. Included in 2 pounds of paper she received answering her petition for birth details were countless letters written through the years by her real mother, Minka, to the adoption home pleading for information about her, all of them either answered vaguely or not at all. She found a phone number, discovered that her mother was still alive, and the connection was finally made.
Minka had a bountiful life of love, labor, and real consequence while never forgetting little Betty Jane. Many years later, at ninety-four, she was reunited with Ruth Lee, her baby of long past, herself now 77. LaGrow, Minka's granddaughter, uses beautiful language and wondrous depictions as she tells of Minka Disbrow, a woman of unbelievable resilience and determination. The reunion is glorious in its reenactment. Minka died in 2014 at 102 but had eight years of wondrous interaction with her baby girl and new family.
It’s a book of both happiness and profound sorrow. It’s a granddaughter’s eloquent memoir that will wring emotions from you that maybe you thought you didn’t possess. I don’t recall reading such a touching story. Don’t miss this book.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES