The voice on the other end of the line was soft, yet forthright: “Sarah, my name is Hannah Morgan. I think I’m your birth mother.”The phone call, wholly unexpected, instantly turned Sarah Saffian’s world upside-down, threatening her sense of family, identity, self. Adopted as an infant twenty-three years before, living happily in New York, Sarah had been “found” by her biological parents despite her reluctance to embrace them.In this searing, lyrical memoir, Sarah chronicles her painful journey from confusion and anger to acceptance and, finally, reunion–but not until three soul-searching years had passed. In spare, luminous prose, Sarah Saffian crafts a powerful story of self-discovery and belonging–a deeply personal memoir told with grace, eloquence, and compassion. At once heartbreaking and profoundly uplifting, Ithaka is sure to touch anyone who has grappled with who they are.
When 23-year-old Sarah Saffian picked up the phone in January 1993 and heard a woman’s voice on the other end say, “I think I’m your birth mother,” she embarked on a journey both longed for and feared by almost all adopted children, the parents who raised them, and the ones who gave them up. Saffian’s case was unusual: her birth parents eventually married and had three more children, her full-blood siblings. She honestly depicts her feelings of wariness and sometimes annoyance as they gently pressed her for a reunion. It was three years before Saffian felt ready to visit Hannah Morgan and Adam Leyder. As befits a topic of such intimacy, Saffian sticks closely to specifics. She not only delineates her own shifting emotions with precision, she quotes extensively from her birth parents’ letters to vividly reveal their personalities (Hannah understands her caution, Adam is needier and pushier). Saffian does not identify any of the players as villains or victims, despite the tricky emotional space they navigate, but finds human beings doing their best to give and receive love in circumstances for which there are no fixed guidelines.
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