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19 November 2018

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Book Review

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Rescuing Julia Twice

By Tina Traster (Chicago Review Press, $24.95, May)

The challenges faced by Americans adopting a child from Russia, where orphanages are often little more than stark, loveless dormitories, normally stay hidden from outside eyes. Only, it seems, in tragic cases of abandonment or death, do these challenges bubble up into public view.

That is unjust, for thousands of children have been successfully adopted into American families, at huge financial and emotional expense. And in all but those very few rare cases we hear about in the media, these children have gained vastly richer, more love-filled lives than would otherwise have been the case.

Still, for the most part, the journey these American families are on is little known or understood, except by other families on the same journey.

But now comes this searing, gripping, heart-filled memoir by journalist Tina Traster. It chronicles her and her husband’s adoption of Julia from a Siberian orphanage, and the years they struggled to overcome Julia’s reactive attachment disorder — a serious condition that results from children not forming normal attachments with caregivers early in life, which affects some children brought up in the deprived environment of Russian orphanages.

This is a book that deserves to be read by all who care about the many Russian children who are now Americans, not just by families that have adopted them. In a clipped, dense, engagingly honest style, Traster recounts all the pain and joy, the difficulties and triumphs of parenting Julia, of bridging their worlds. It is a fast and entertaining read, but one that takes a great deal longer to absorb.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Mar/Apr 2014