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Friday, February 21, 2014

The Search To Find Oneself: Review of Searching for the Castle by Barbara Leigh Ohrstrom

"Your wound is also a shining, multifaceted gem."

Barbara Leigh Ohrstrom begins her memoir, Searching for the Castle: Backtrail of an Adoption, by warning readers that this is a story without a happy ending. And in the sense of Disney/Hollywood they-all-lived-happily-ever-after endings, this is certainly true. Yet, for me this is a story of triumph, an adopted woman’s journey to unlock her past in order to step into her future.

At the heart of the story is Ohrstrom’s search for her birth parents during the years before the Internet, when searching meant mailing letters and waiting weeks for a response or driving hundreds of miles to visit agencies and hospitals in person.

The mystery of why Ohrstrom was adopted is complicated by her discovery that the foster family with whom she lived for roughly three years might have been the perfect solution for her needs, if only they had been permitted to continue raising her and her two siblings. This is the first book I have read which details the perspective of an adopted person who spent considerable time in foster care prior to her adoption, and Ohrstrom does a good job of describing her impressions as a very young child of what was happening to her. As the book continues, the reader’s understanding of the situation expands in parallel to Ohrstrom’s own understanding as she matures into a teenager and then into an adult.