Having been an orphanage relief worker in Romania, and the director of a US adoption program in Portland, Oregon, Chandra Hoffman writes what she knows in her debut novel, Chosen. However as the author says, “The story is fiction–but the themes are real, from my own life, from the message boards, from those I have been privileged to witness, and, maybe, even from yours….”
With the domestic adoption scene of Portland as a backdrop — and also taking on a character role of its own –, Chosen focuses on the two complex questions of What happens when you get what you thought you wanted and How far would you go if it might not be what you want anymore? Rather than the musings of “what if”s?” these questions can only be answered by actions and, to do this, Chandra introduces the reader to characters with multiple points of view. In fact being able to hear divergent voices is a major part of her writing as she explains:
“It’s critical to be able to tune into your characters’ unique voices and the easiest way for me to do that is to figure out how they sound out loud. Dialogue is the most natural part of writing to me; once I know how someone sounds, I can get inside their heads and hear how they speak to themselves, eavesdrop on the thoughts tumbling around in their mind before they fall asleep.”
As a result the book offers many sides of the adoption story from a green, idealistic social worker, a grieving birth father, one potential adoptive father, and a nervous single mother. What they want, or think they want, evolve and come together to create the Chosen storyline and following synopsis:
In the spirit of Jodi Picoult and Anna Quindlen, CHOSEN features a young caseworker increasingly entangled in the lives of the adoptive and birth parents she represents, and who faces life-altering choices when an extortion attempt goes horribly wrong.
It all begins with a fantasy: the caseworker in her “signing paperwork” charcoal suit, paired with beaming parents cradling their adopted newborn, against a fluorescent-lit delivery room backdrop. It’s this blissful picture that keeps Chloe Pinter, director of The Chosen Child’s domestic adoption program, happy juggling the high demands of her boss and the incessant needs of parents on both sides.
But the job that offers Chloe refuge from her turbulent personal life and Portland’s winter rains soon becomes a battleground itself involving three very different couples: the Novas, college sweethearts who suffered fertility problems but are now expecting their own baby; the McAdoos, a wealthy husband and desperate wife for whom adoption is a last chance; and Jason and Penny, an impoverished couple who have nothing-except the baby everyone wants. When a child goes missing, dreams dissolve into nightmares, and everyone is forced to examine what they really want and where it all went wrong.
Told from alternating points of view, Chosen reveals the desperate nature of desire across social backgrounds and how far people will go to get the one thing they think will be the answer.
Now please take a minute to view the haunting CHOSEN Book Trailer.
From this critical trade review:
“Gripping. . . . A heartfelt story well told.” (Kirkus Reviews)
To a fellow author’s praise:
“Chandra Hoffman’s CHOSEN is a finely tuned page-turner. With unwavering clarity and genuine empathy born of experience, Hoffman turns the spotlight on her so-real characters, exposing the raw edges of their love and longing and fears. There is no perfect happiness here; instead, there is the unexpected grace of discovering that getting what we want is so often less ideal than wanting what we get. This is an outstanding debut.” – Therese Fowler, author of REUNION AND SOUVENIR
The above opinions confirm that Chandra has captured the human, flawed, and sympathetic side of adoption, along with the darker business aspect of it as well. For in truth, with every adoptive birth, there will be someone going home empty-handed. Like the author’s personal goal while working in the adoption field, the novel’s social worker Chloe Pinter works to create families and happy endings. Yet is that realistically possible? Since adoption is not always the perfect or even correct solution for the adults involved, where does this leave the baby?
Reading Chosen was a reminder of how wanting something too much never quite fulfills expectations whenever it comes one’s way. Nor can happiness be bought, and parenthood is anything but a cooing, sweet baby. Although this work is fiction, it’s based on the reality of Chandra’s experiences and that knowledge is discomforting at best even in minor revelations. For example hopeful, potential adoptive parents are attached to their phones 24/7, either waiting for the phone call that a birth mother has chosen to give them her baby or a call to get to the hospital because their baby is being born. Then there’s another possible call — the one that says the birth mother has changed her mind.
While the adoption issues alone are compelling, Chandra added an extortion storyline to drive the plot and create what has been described as a thriller. Still she believes that “the heart of Chosen is new parenthood, and how people resolve that disparity between perception and reality.” Whether giving birth to or adopting a baby, there’s unbridled joy mixed with disillusionment when confronting the challenges another life holds. It’s not easy either way and, knowing this, the author brings forth the questions of: How does parenthood change you? What happens when your expectations of parenthood are so far from the reality? What makes a good parent? A good person? And what happens when you get what you thought you wanted (but it’s not what you signed up for)?
Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen is a brilliantly written tale that offers fairness to all parts of this emotional equation and may leave a reader wondering just who is being “chosen?” For adoption is complicated and it takes courage to choose….whatever is best for everyone involved.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.
Announcement: The winners of a signed copy of Thaisa Frank’s Heidegger’s Glasses are Suzanne and Sue Kaliski. Congratulations!
Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.