Second-Chance Mother
by Denise Roessle



Red Willow Digital Press, 2011. ISBN: B00695T7P4.
Reviewed by Linda Hoye
Posted on 11/30/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir

From the first sentence I was captivated by Denise Roessle's account of reuniting with her son twenty-six years after giving birth to him and relinquishing him to be adopted. This is not a sappy-sweet reunion story; this is a real, sometimes raw view into the experience of a woman who gets a second chance to be part of her son's life, only to find there are not always happy endings in reunion. The family that Roessle's son was placed with shortly after birth did not turn out to be the storybook family she had wished for him and as a result, she meets a tormented, angry, and needy young man with secrets of his own.

This is more than just a story of adoption and reunion. Second-Chance Mother is a layered tale of multi-generational wounding beginning with the author's grandmother who, after her husband died, "scattered her children to the winds," giving them to an assortment of other families to raise. Most of the nine children managed to keep in contact with one another, but Roessle's mother moved away as soon as she could, cutting off all contact with her family. She led her husband and children to believe she had no family of her own.

This is a complex story of relationships between the author, her stoic parents, and the young man who desperately wants a relationship with his birth mother, yet struggles to get past his anger toward her. It is a compelling story that reads almost like a mystery novel at times as details about the extended family are revealed and the unpredictable and unstable life of Roessle's son and the many women who pass through his life is told.

The author doesn't gloss over the truth in this book. As a result, in addition to a compelling read, Second-Chance Mother is a resource that educates the reader, not only about the impact secrets can have on an entire family, but also about the deep, perhaps irreparable, wounding of both mother and child when they are separated by adoption.

Read an excerpt from this book.


Originally from California, Roessle went to high school in Kailua, Hawaii. She attended Stephens College in Missouri and University of Alaska, then graduated from UCLA in English/Journalism. A professional copywriter and graphic designer, she is the former owner of a marketing communications firm in Northern California.

After reuniting with her adult son in 1996, she began writing on this more personal topic. Her articles have appeared in Adoptive Families and Adoption Today magazines, as well as adoption-focused organization's newsletters: the Post Adoption Center for Education and Research (PACER) and the American Adoption Congress (AAC). She facilitated a PACER support group for birthparents, adoptees and adoptive parents from 1999 until 2005, and continues to be active in the national post-adoption community.

Second-Chance Mother is Denise's first book. She is a member of the Story Circle Network, the National Association of Memoir Writers, and the Society of Southwestern Authors. Her essays and short stories have earned awards in writing contests. She and her husband live in Southern Arizona. Visit her website & her blog.

(See another review of this book, here)

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