More and more, I am a reader of novels. Avid to the point of addiction. I am obsessed with the way stories can connect us so much with our own truths and the truths of others.
It so happens that the last two books I have read have both been stories of adoption. They are stories of hearts, voices, families and identities, stories of lost and found.
Trisha Ashley’s The Little Teashop of Lost and Found follows the journey of Alice Rose, adopted and bereaved, who finally begins a search for her birth place and birth mother in Yorkshire. With an intriguing plot and a heart warming array of supporting characters who travel Alice’s journey with her, it’s a gripping but comforting story. It’s an easy, gentle read in many ways, and very absorbing. From the beginning, I was rooting for Alice, a resilient character who, in spite of difficult and sad circumstances, retains a soft heart and finds help and comfort from friends who love her. I was absorbed by her struggle to find a sense of identity and home.
Meanwhile, Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden is arguably a more ambitious book, more dense and intense, but also has central characters trying to solve the mysteries in their past. This book centres around Cassandra, an Australian who inherits a Cornish cottage from her Grandmother, Nell, and with it the puzzle of how Nell ended up on her own, aged four, on a ship from England to Australia. As Cassandra tries to find out who Nell’s birth parents were, Morton leads us into the lives of several generations and the deep secrets of a once lauded family with a beautiful Cornish estate. It’s an intriguing book with overlapping mysteries. Morton manages to instil in it a deep sense of the human need to understand our origins and also to pass on something of ourselves to future generations and those we love. This is a story that presents the tenderness of memory, grief, love, loss, desire, friendship, loneliness and the importance of finding peace in our identity.
Interestingly, this theme of adoption and ‘lost and found’ is not the only commonality between these two books. One of the other central themes of both books is another that is also close to my heart: storytelling and writing. Alice in The Little Teashop of Lost and Found is a writer of modern fairy tales with a twist, while much of Morton’s story centres around the ethereal ‘Authoress’, who wrote the book of fairy stories found with Nell when she arrived in Australia. Both characters use their writing to express the depths of emotion and experience in their lives.
I don’t think that these two themes are entwined coincidentally: I think that all great stories have elements of lost and found in them, and that stories are essential to building our sense of identity. Part of the reason I was so enthralled with these books was because I had a deep and desperate connection with them, both as a human with my own stories of love, loss and everything else in between; as a writer for whom words play a daily part in my relationships with myself and the wider world; and perhaps most of all as a mother to two beautiful adopted children. For them, I have such high hopes that the journeys and adventures they go through as they grow up will be permeated by a sense of self discovery, of ‘foundness’ and of peace within their own skin.