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Adoption Memoir “blog tour” – Finding Zoe

This is my first year participating in an adoption memoir blog tour, created by my friend and colleague Lori Holden. Participants were invited to reflect and comment on different questions after reading Finding Zoe, written by Brandi Rarus and Gail Harris.

Finding Zoe is an adoption memoir written by adoptive parent Brandi Rarus. It’s her story of her dream come true – adopting the daughter she always wanted. The book is written from Brandi’s viewpoint. I read it as an adoptee and an adoption therapist – my lens. In my opinion Finding Zoe is an uneven representation of the myriad of complex, lifelong issues inherent to adoption and perpetuates the myth of adoption as child rescue and/or divine intervention and/or something that is meant to be. The truth is, adoption is none of these.

I was surprised at the many delicate details and highly personal information shared about young Zoe’s life and eventual adoption. It’s my understanding that Zoe is still a minor. I strongly believe that adoptees own their stories and that parents have the duty to protect that story. As I turned the pages I repeatedly found myself wondering what Zoe’s reactions will be when she reads this book and hears the heart-wrenching and sensitive parts of her life revealed by her adoptive mom.

That said, I am relieved that hers is an open adoption and my hope is that Brandi and her husband continue to educate themselves about adoption and provide honest, age appropriate details to Zoe as she grows. I also hope they are able to help Zoe integrate the sadness, grief and loss inherent in adoption so that she may connect the dots of her life and weave together her own personal narrative.

I’ve selected two questions from the ones presented by the other participants and provided my answers below. I sure welcome your viewpoint in the comments section.
Q: “As for Marlys, we may never know why she didn’t tell BJ that Sandy and Stephane had relinquished Celine and that she had gone back to foster care. While I can certainly appreciate BJ’s anguish, in a way I believe that what Marlys did turned out to be a blessing. It prevented him from fighting for Zoe all over again, saving him and his family so much extra pain and heartache. And it allowed Zoe to find where she really belonged.”

This passage creeps me out. It colors Marlys as unethical, especially with some of her earlier pressure to get BJ to agree to relinquishment. I also feel the viewpoint is somewhat dismissive of BJ as Zoe’s birth father. How did this passage strike you?

A: I think it’s bold to assume that Zoe “belongs” with Brandi and her family. Zoe isn’t a possession and she didn’t “find her way” to the Rairus family. Zoe wasn’t lost. Her birthfather expressed he wanted to parent her and was discouraged from doing so. Had BJ known about the disrupted placement with Sandy and Stephane he may have fought and got his daughter back – we’ll never know but it doesn’t seem wise to assume that the events that unfolded “allowed Zoe to find where she really belonged.” That certainly supports the “fairy-tale” quality of this book but truthfully, Zoe is where she is because adults made decisions about her placement. Her voice is yet to be heard.

Q: It seemed to me that the birth father was coerced into signing the adoption paperwork. Did anyone else interpret it this way?

A: Yes, I interpreted it the same way. It seemed like Marlys and the agency had a definite agenda and it didn’t include the possibility of BJ parenting his daughter. I was shocked that he wasn’t notified after Sandy and Stephane changed their mind about adopting Celine/Zoe. BJ originally expressed a desire to raise his daughter with the help of his willing parents. He was quickly dismissed. I wonder how Zoe will feel when she discovers this.

My question for you: How much is “too much” information when sharing the story of an adopted child who has yet come to understand and integrate that story fully?

To continue to the next leg of this tour please visit the main list at

Lori will post an interview with Brandi later this week. I’ll provide a link as soon as she does. In the meantime, visit the links of the other participants and join in the discussion:

Lori of

Judy of

Kim of

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh, yes. I think the Rashomon effect in adoptions would be interesting, should Zoe one day publicly share the story from her viewpoint.

    I’m so glad you toured along with us and shared YOUR viewpoint, Lesli!

    December 2, 2014
  2. I agree with everything you said here, Lesli. I was completely shocked that BJ was not allowed to parent his child. The voice of birthfathers is often absent from these conversations – I think it is a huge disservice (and mistake) to edge out those birthfathers who do step up and participate.

    December 2, 2014
  3. “In my opinion Finding Zoe is an uneven representation of the myriad of complex, lifelong issues inherent to adoption and perpetuates the myth of adoption as child rescue and/or divine intervention and/or something that is meant to be. The truth is, adoption is none of these.” So true. I cover this critical information in depth during adoption preparation education with parents. As a read I wondered about the preparation and support. Nonexistent??

    I was also bothered by the overload of personal details and I wonder how future Zoe will cope with her story being shared in such a way. Her story was hers to share, period.

    December 2, 2014

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