When, in 1960, Linda Hoye is surrendered in infancy for adoption, the process is deeply cloaked in secrecy. The story her adoptive parents tell her is the "you-were-chosen" story. It goes like this: we went to a place where there were many different babies, and when we came to you, you lifted your arms toward us, and that's how we knew that you were the baby for us. We chose you out of a whole bunch of other babies.
The intention of this story seems well-meant. Yet it is, in fact, simply an illusion because what lurks always beneath the lovely story is the irrefutable fact that secrecy and shame embrace the adoptee's birth. This becomes the core of the soul's pervasive ache to know that secret.
The author opens her memoir with a quote by Alex Haley:
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness."
In the ensuing pages, Hoye shows us with grace and clarity what that hunger is like and how, lacking any knowledge whatsoever of her birth family, it influences every part of her existence."My life began when I was adopted. There was no one to tell me stories about the day I was born. My emergence into this life was shrouded in mystery and shame. I have a sensation sometimes that I wasn't born, just dropped here from outer space."
Despite the child-rearing strengths of her parents, Hoye nevertheless manifests many of the classic characteristics of an adoptee: the strong need to please and conform, feeling out of place, never fitting in, seeking to be invisible, and handicapped in many adolescent developmental skills.Hoye's adoptive parents are good parents who consistently give her unconditional love and support in all her achievements. In her early years, one of the values they teach Linda and her also-adopted sister, Lori, is to always tell the truth, yet quickly we see the confusing dichotomy Hoye faces of living not only with the secret shrouding her birth but also a few family secrets. For example, her parents both use alcohol, yet the fact is unspoken and masked in subtle ways. Hoye and Lori are taught to call beer "pop," and to not use the word "drunk." These secrets keep her in a perpetual void of fear, uncertainty, and illusions.
The author shows us well the turmoil of her interior world as she passes through childhood and adolescence. Although, when in her late teens, she appears a bright, self-confident young woman, she begins to make precarious life decisions. She enters into an abusive relationship with a sometimes-employed, married-but-separated father of three who drinks, and who brings his children to live with them. Hoye then has a daughter and a son with him, and we ache as we watch her adapt to this troubled relationship just as she did to her childhood world.
Yet we realize what silently drives her: the profound yearning of her lonely soul to create a family of her own, the flesh and blood family of which she has never been a part.
When she's twenty-four, Hoye's adoptive father dies and eighteen months later, her mother. Hoye is devastated to be parentless for the second time in her young life. In the ashes of her grief, she is able to discern a gift as she realizes her mother had built her world around her father, and had no interests to pursue after his death. Hoye determines then that her life will be different, and affirms this will be her mother's final gift to her.
The remainder of the book is a absorbing journey with Hoye as she embarks on two new pathways. First, she makes and carries out sound decisions that lead to significant betterment of her life. Second, she begins a long, difficult, and convoluted search for her birth family as new adoption laws begin to open doors for adoptees trying to find their birth families.
Two Hearts is a book that can be easily read in a day. I would recommend, however, reading it slowly over several days in order to more richly appreciate the many levels of Hoye's exceptional journey.
The author concludes by stating her wish to be "part of the solution that leads us toward a healthy adoption climate."
"I hope my story can provide hope to adoptees that it's possible to find peace and healing. For those who make the laws, I hope my story illustrates the importance of providing adoptees with as much information about their circumstances as possible."
I believe she has succeeded remarkably.
Linda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma. She currently lives in Washington State with her husband and their two Yorkshire terriers. Visit her blog.
Check out our interview with the author of Two Hearts.
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