Author/journalist Erin Siegal has done an incredible job documenting the darker side of international adoption. The book provides a top-notch researched account of how corruption, greed, poverty and lack of the rule of law can allow for children to be forcibly separated from their parents by baby trafficking rings, ripping apart the most basic human connections of family, community and blood ties. At the same time, the book does not read as a condemnation of international adoptions nor of the people who open their homes to these children. This balanced approach to the issue is part of its strength, allowing readers to evaluate the complexity of the issue on their own terms through the story Siegal shares with us.
Siegal traces the root of the problem through a vast journalistic endeavor that includes interviews and document searches on both sides of the border. The research and documentation forms the foundation of the book, making it a solid, fact-based read. It is the narrative of two mothers - one who has lost her child to a ring of baby smugglers and the other who is seeking to adopt internationally - that takes the book to an emotionally compelling level worthy of a television/movie script. By taking us into the lives of these two women who find themselves connected in the search for Fernanda, Siegal provides us with a very real and heart-wrenching human face to the issue. The differences between these women are what initially stand out. The story of the Guatemalan mother is one of lack of education that leads to limited and poor choices and a constant struggle to make ends meet, a world that is far from that of the Tennessee housewife who is attempting to adopt a Guatemalan child. Yet, despite these differences, these two women share an immense strength of character, faith and dogged persistence. As the story evolves, these two mothers are brought together by their joint pursuit for answers and resolution in the search for Fernanda. Siegal has done an award-winning job of weaving explanatory and investigative journalism with a heart-wrenching narrative that propels the story forward.