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Two Mothers in Two Worlds

Guest Post by Dawn Newton.

Jessica O’Dwyer’s novel Mother Mother is not only a story featuring two mothers but also a story about two worlds—a middle-class world in the United States where parents can seek an adoption through public or private options and the world of a Guatemalan mother forced to give up a child in the aftermath of a brutal civil war.

O’Dwyer writes about these journeys from many angles, revealing the complexities and emotional nuances of the adoption process for birth mothers and adoptive parents alike. There is despair, strength, and joy in the details. The juxtaposition of the two mothers’ lives, while highlighting the differences in socioeconomic issues and personal freedom in the two worlds, also reveals the emotional intensity involved in the journey each mother faces.

Just as Saroo Brierley’s A Long Way Home focuses on an adopted child’s journey to find a birth mother while portraying impoverished families in India, Mother Mother presents the stages of the adoption process while also revealing the work to be done once the adopted child arrives—helping him settle comfortably into an American society that still struggles with “the other.” In an incident on a playground just after newly adopted Jack’s arrival, a stranger comments on the boy, comfortable in her assumption that because Jack’s skin color is different from his mother’s, he must be adopted. Julie, his new mother, realizes that she won’t always be able to protect her son from external judgment or evaluation. Like most good books, this novel teaches us about worlds we might not know or understand, helping us to expand our empathy for others.


(Disclaimer: This book was published by the small press publishing my own work. While I don’t know the author personally, I consulted with her by phone once on a press-related issue.)

Mother Mother by Jessica O’Dwyer. Apprentice House, October 2020.

Reviewer bio: Dawn Newton is the author of Winded: A Memoir in Four Stages. Her novel, The Remnants of Summer, is forthcoming from Apprentice House Press in 2021.

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