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Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China

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"Will you take her?" she asks. When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the gre "Will you take her?" she asks. When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the greatest challenges of Russell's life. Russell, watching in disbelief as Alex distances herself from the child, cares for the baby -- clothing, bathing, and feeding her -- and makes her feel secure in the unfamiliar surroundings. Russell is overwhelmed and disoriented by the unfolding drama and all that she sees in China, and yet amid the emotional turmoil finds herself deeply bonding with the child. She begins to have dreams of an ancient past -- dreams of a young woman who is plucked from the countryside and chosen to be empress, and of the child who is ultimately taken from her. As it becomes clear that her friend -- whose indecisiveness about the adoption has become a torment -- won't be bringing the baby home, Russell is amazed to realize that she cannot leave the baby behind and that her dreams have been telling her something significant, giving her the courage to open her heart and bring the child home against all odds. Steeped in Chinese culture, Forever Lily is an extraordinary account of a life-changing, wholly unexpected love.


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"Will you take her?" she asks. When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the gre "Will you take her?" she asks. When Beth Nonte Russell travels to China to help her friend Alex adopt a baby girl from an orphanage there, she thinks it will be an adventure, a chance to see the world. But her friend, who had prepared for the adoption for many months, panics soon after being presented with the frail baby, and the situation develops into one of the greatest challenges of Russell's life. Russell, watching in disbelief as Alex distances herself from the child, cares for the baby -- clothing, bathing, and feeding her -- and makes her feel secure in the unfamiliar surroundings. Russell is overwhelmed and disoriented by the unfolding drama and all that she sees in China, and yet amid the emotional turmoil finds herself deeply bonding with the child. She begins to have dreams of an ancient past -- dreams of a young woman who is plucked from the countryside and chosen to be empress, and of the child who is ultimately taken from her. As it becomes clear that her friend -- whose indecisiveness about the adoption has become a torment -- won't be bringing the baby home, Russell is amazed to realize that she cannot leave the baby behind and that her dreams have been telling her something significant, giving her the courage to open her heart and bring the child home against all odds. Steeped in Chinese culture, Forever Lily is an extraordinary account of a life-changing, wholly unexpected love.

30 review for Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Seriously, this book is TERRIBLE. What was the point of all that hocus-pocus dream stuff? I eventually got smart and started skipping those sections, but that still didn't improve the book much. The underlying story is compelling: A woman accomanies her friend to China so the friend can adopt the baby. The friend changes her mind and the author decides to keep the baby. Adoption disruptions like this are unusual, but they do happen. The story of the various parties' emotional journey could have Seriously, this book is TERRIBLE. What was the point of all that hocus-pocus dream stuff? I eventually got smart and started skipping those sections, but that still didn't improve the book much. The underlying story is compelling: A woman accomanies her friend to China so the friend can adopt the baby. The friend changes her mind and the author decides to keep the baby. Adoption disruptions like this are unusual, but they do happen. The story of the various parties' emotional journey could have been really interesting (but it wasn't in this book). Also, I was quite disappointed at the portrayal of adoption being a way to "save" a baby from her otherwise miserable fate. It is just degrading to the kids involved. Yuck. This book is a bunch of weird psychobabble, new-agey crap. Very disappointing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Yoonmee

    UGH. What isn't offensive about this book? Not much, I'll tell you that. I started reading it with a pen in hand, as I generally do when I read, to mark passages and take notes; I was only about three pages in before I realized that if I kept up the marking, I'd be circling and underlining pretty much the entire book. I'll start off with the author's attitude toward transracial and intercountry adoption: she's basically a white liberal who believes she can be Chinese (as she claims at the very e UGH. What isn't offensive about this book? Not much, I'll tell you that. I started reading it with a pen in hand, as I generally do when I read, to mark passages and take notes; I was only about three pages in before I realized that if I kept up the marking, I'd be circling and underlining pretty much the entire book. I'll start off with the author's attitude toward transracial and intercountry adoption: she's basically a white liberal who believes she can be Chinese (as she claims at the very end of the book) and that adoptive parents are heroes and saviors for adopting Chinese girls. GAH!!! She constantly criticizes China and Chinese people. And those dream sequences she has? What the heck?!?! She dreams she's a Chinese peasant girl sent to become Empress. It's just downright insulting. The dreams are basically her Orientalist fantasies about what China is like, what Chinese people are like, and aren't grounded in anything besides what she's probably learned about China and Asia through tv shows and movies. I wanted to pull my hair out every time she referred to Lily (her adopted daughter) as "mine" or "my baby," as if she can own another human being. I understand it was incredibly stressful being in China with her "friend" who wanted to relinquish the child, but the author was downright obsessive about taking ownership of the child, as if Lily were a toy the two women were fighting over. Of course, if I had indeed pulled my hair out, I would have ended up bald long before the book ended. I could go on and on, but I'll just end here by saying this book is actually a really great example of how so many adoptive parents get obsessive about "having" (read: owning, possessing) a child, as if having children is something they are entitled to and how so many adoptive parents don't have a very good understanding of the causes or effects of transracial, intercountry adoption.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This was a...strange book. It's listed as memoir. Features mainly three characters, the author/narrator, her friend Alex, and anonymous Baby. The premise is excellent, but would have been helped by a good thorough editing. The author is asked to go to China to pick up an adopted baby by her friend Alex. When they get there, Alex flips out and decides she doesn't really want this baby - for some reason some mix up about the age (by a few months) throws her off. Slowly, it rolls out that apparentl This was a...strange book. It's listed as memoir. Features mainly three characters, the author/narrator, her friend Alex, and anonymous Baby. The premise is excellent, but would have been helped by a good thorough editing. The author is asked to go to China to pick up an adopted baby by her friend Alex. When they get there, Alex flips out and decides she doesn't really want this baby - for some reason some mix up about the age (by a few months) throws her off. Slowly, it rolls out that apparently no one in the family wanted this baby, Alex and hubby are on the brink of divorce, etc etc. As this is happening in various hotel rooms in China, the author falls in love with the baby. Sounds like a good base, right? Well, it isn't. For one thing, the most interesting aspects of the story are totally glossed over. The weirdest, and in some ways most intriguing character, is Alex. How on earth did such a strange woman end up friends with the author? Who the hell tries to adopt a baby for spite? Just how shady is this adoption "agency" - that apparently did not notice that the couple was on the verge of divorce, that the father didn't want this kid at all, that requires clean cash bills? None of this is addressed. Instead, the book is torn between charting the authors somewhat racist dreams about her past life as a Chinese concubine meeting with stock characters with made-up names, like something out of a British colonial novel about "The Orient," contempt for apparently all of the Chinese people, government, and culture, and her sense of supreme destiny that this baby is hers. An editor should have told her that hearing about someone else's weird dream is a conversation killer, that the most interesting aspects of the story were ignored, that she needs to examine more critically her attitudes toward non-Americans, that the child is a PERSON, that she is doing a disservice to reputable adoption and adoptive families. See the review by Yoonme on this site.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mauri

    What I read of this (the first 30 pages, the last section, and the epilogue) read like awful Mary-Sue style original fiction. First-person point-of-view, present tense, interspersed dream segments from a prior life (?) had me setting this down pretty quickly. Mostly I can't believe how self-serving the author is. The 'dreams' she has of a (badly-researched) woman from ancient China are ridiculous, her efforts to analyze them and relate them to the events in her life are almost hysterical in their What I read of this (the first 30 pages, the last section, and the epilogue) read like awful Mary-Sue style original fiction. First-person point-of-view, present tense, interspersed dream segments from a prior life (?) had me setting this down pretty quickly. Mostly I can't believe how self-serving the author is. The 'dreams' she has of a (badly-researched) woman from ancient China are ridiculous, her efforts to analyze them and relate them to the events in her life are almost hysterical in their self-centeredness. The final straw was at the end of the book when she relates a story from a sibling about how she once sat straight up in bed and started speaking Chinese as a teenager.* The sibling solemnly tells her that when they 'always knew you were Chinese'. I related this story to a group of American college students studying abroad in Japan and the response was one of general hysterics. For a group of people (myself included) who had been studying a language and culture in depth for upwards of eight years, the idea that a woman who had seemingly never been to China before, didn't speak a word of Chinese (teenage sleep-talking aside), admitted in the interview at the back of the book that she was no expert of Chinese culture (or history, for that matter) even after adopting two Chinese daughters, could think 'I am Chinese' was beyond ludicrous. As ludicrous as one of us up and saying 'I am Japanese.' I can speak Japanese, contain myself emotionally as a Japanese person might, eat Japanese food, marry a Japanese man, and have Japanese children, but I will always be a 175 cm tall American woman who prefers Coca Cola over green tea. To have someone write a book about how she had seemingly transcended innumerable cultural barriers because of her dreams was breath-taking in its arrogance. *The sibling 'knew' it was Chinese because she'd been hearing it all day while they wandered around Chinatown. *sob* My own mother can't tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese after eight years. ETA: left it in Japan.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Hudson

    When Beth Nonte Russell was asked to accompany a friend to pick up the baby girl she was adopting from China, she expected it to be an adventure. An avid traveler, Russell had never been to China, and she welcomed this chance to help a friend while discovering a new country. But when the friend is presented with a frail baby who seems developmentally far behind her age, she balks at going through with the adoption. Russell finds herself responding in a way that will change her life forever: she a When Beth Nonte Russell was asked to accompany a friend to pick up the baby girl she was adopting from China, she expected it to be an adventure. An avid traveler, Russell had never been to China, and she welcomed this chance to help a friend while discovering a new country. But when the friend is presented with a frail baby who seems developmentally far behind her age, she balks at going through with the adoption. Russell finds herself responding in a way that will change her life forever: she agrees to take the girl herself once back in the U.S. Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption in China is the memoir Russell has written about her experience. Russell masterfully tells the story of her journey, which included other soon-to-be adoptive parents who had all planned for a long time to bring a new baby into their lives. Russell weaves tales of the group's sightseeing excursions to famous landmarks along with heartbreaking images of the babies’ orphanage when the group visits. She shares her conflicting thoughts of China, whose society is vibrant and modern, but also ancient and repressed. An undercurrent of the story is Russell’s vivid dreams, some of which started before her trip began and lead her to believe she may have a stronger connection to China than she ever would have imagined. While Russell’s decision to take the baby is clearly heroic, she doesn’t make herself out to be an unblemished hero, which makes her seem more human. She freely shares that her relationship with her stepchildren was reserved, and that she didn’t open herself up to love and the possibility of being hurt in the past. As she struggles emotionally to accept what she knows she must do, she shares with the reader her personal spiritual beliefs and her journey to get to those beliefs. Forever Lily is a fascinating story that engrosses to the end, and it will have readers asking themselves, “What would I do if something extraordinary was asked of me?” While it’s most appropriate for moms, who will more easily relate to Russell’s story, older girls will find something of interest here too. Russell also makes book club discussion easy with a list of discussion questions and an interview featured in the back of the book along with a list of activities the group can consider.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Larson-Wang

    Hated this book. The author is a nutcase and her dream sequences in which she decides she was a Chinese woman in a previous life are ridiculous, especially considering the author clearly hates China and seems to think that the point of adoption is to "save" these kids from their horrible fates. I was more interested in the friend's really bizarre and erratic behavior backing out of an adoption at the last minute. That was interesting. The new-age past life condescending Chinese crap, not so much Hated this book. The author is a nutcase and her dream sequences in which she decides she was a Chinese woman in a previous life are ridiculous, especially considering the author clearly hates China and seems to think that the point of adoption is to "save" these kids from their horrible fates. I was more interested in the friend's really bizarre and erratic behavior backing out of an adoption at the last minute. That was interesting. The new-age past life condescending Chinese crap, not so much.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Al-

    I don't give many books 2 stars. Especially one I picked myself, especially one about international adoption, especially one set in China! I really wanted to like this book. And, as a matter of fact, I enjoyed reading it. But... Maybe it is because the author wasn't prepared to adopt, it just happened. She was very disrespectful to the country of China & it's culture. And to adoption! To make it worse, she was trying to be "aware" and balanced. This is the country that gave you your adoring child I don't give many books 2 stars. Especially one I picked myself, especially one about international adoption, especially one set in China! I really wanted to like this book. And, as a matter of fact, I enjoyed reading it. But... Maybe it is because the author wasn't prepared to adopt, it just happened. She was very disrespectful to the country of China & it's culture. And to adoption! To make it worse, she was trying to be "aware" and balanced. This is the country that gave you your adoring child! Forget about the dream sequences...whaaat?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I was fooled by the nice cover art, this book sucks.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Edwards

    Forever Lily is the story of a woman who travels to China to support a friend in the final stages of adoption. However, when her friend, Alex, receives her baby, the situation begins to unravel quickly. Alex panics and doesn't think she can handle a baby that clearly has some development delays due to the harsh environment of the orphanage where the baby spent its' first months of life. Uncertainty and an instant bond with the child make for many emotionally charged days for the author. The story Forever Lily is the story of a woman who travels to China to support a friend in the final stages of adoption. However, when her friend, Alex, receives her baby, the situation begins to unravel quickly. Alex panics and doesn't think she can handle a baby that clearly has some development delays due to the harsh environment of the orphanage where the baby spent its' first months of life. Uncertainty and an instant bond with the child make for many emotionally charged days for the author. The story itself is horrifying and incredible at the same time. Certain portions read like an interesting travel guide, giving us an interesting glimpse into China, its culture and people. The images of the orphans in the orphanage made me want to investigate international adoption, it is such a tragedy. Alex (the adopting mom) is made out to be a self-centered and incredibly indecisive, and while this is certainly the case, I thought the author's treatment of her was sometimes a bit harsh. It is clear, however, that this was also a very traumatic time for the author whose love of the baby (eventually named Lily) becomes a real trial of faith. The reason I couldn't give this book more stars is because of Russell's dreams - passages of a Chinese dream-life that she apparently had before and during this experience in China. Possibly these sections were trying to show a spiritual connection between Lily and Russell, but for me they were incredibly distracting and, for me, added a seed of doubt about the rest of the text's authenticity. I'm sure this devise may have worked well for other people and tied China's ancient past with the present of the book. It just didn't work for me. I did enjoy this read. The writing was typically tight with affecting imagery. I wanted to know how things resolved and I nearly had tears on a couple of occasions, both because I was sad and because I was happy (I'm that kind of reader!). Forever Lily presents an emotional and interesting new twist on international adoption stories, so it certainly has a place in that canon.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I understand why people don't love this book: the author is condescending to Chinese culture even while making claims that she is reincarnated from that country. She also veers too often into New Age fantasies about why she was called to adopt her daughter from China. That said, though, I still enjoyed this book. For one thing, how can you resist that cover? The story moves at a steady clip and has some touching moments. I learned things about China that I didn't know. The end was a little gloss I understand why people don't love this book: the author is condescending to Chinese culture even while making claims that she is reincarnated from that country. She also veers too often into New Age fantasies about why she was called to adopt her daughter from China. That said, though, I still enjoyed this book. For one thing, how can you resist that cover? The story moves at a steady clip and has some touching moments. I learned things about China that I didn't know. The end was a little glossed over... how did she and her husband end up adopting Lily? It's hinted that they would have to be her foster parents before petitioning to adopt her, but the author never spells it out. I would have preferred more clarity. Overall, though, I liked the book. I'd give it just under 4 stars, but well over 3.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    This is not really an adoption memoir; it's a "spiritual journey," and not one I enjoyed. I skipped all the dream sequences after the first 1.5. The whole of Forever Lily takes place over about four days, when Ms. Russell accompanies her friend on a trip to China to adopt a baby. Those four days of paper work and visiting should be just the beginning of an adoption story. Yes, it's an emotionally gripping premise; her friend meets the baby and decides she cannot go through with the adoption. But This is not really an adoption memoir; it's a "spiritual journey," and not one I enjoyed. I skipped all the dream sequences after the first 1.5. The whole of Forever Lily takes place over about four days, when Ms. Russell accompanies her friend on a trip to China to adopt a baby. Those four days of paper work and visiting should be just the beginning of an adoption story. Yes, it's an emotionally gripping premise; her friend meets the baby and decides she cannot go through with the adoption. But all the rest is just too much. The author believes she was Chinese in a past life and that her friend had caused her to lose a baby in some other past life, and this journey was a way of making up for that. If that kind of thing interests you, then you may enjoy this book. Or, you could read Wish You Happy Forever by Jenny Bowen.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kerith

    I've read so many different stories of people going to China to adopt and bring home a baby girl -- this one differed in that the author went with her friend who was adopting. While there, her friend suddenly realized she did not want to adopt the child after all and asked the author if she would take her home instead. It's hard for me to fathom anyone getting through the adoption process and the wait and the travel to suddenly refuse the child, but I suppose it can happen. Her writing was engagi I've read so many different stories of people going to China to adopt and bring home a baby girl -- this one differed in that the author went with her friend who was adopting. While there, her friend suddenly realized she did not want to adopt the child after all and asked the author if she would take her home instead. It's hard for me to fathom anyone getting through the adoption process and the wait and the travel to suddenly refuse the child, but I suppose it can happen. Her writing was engaging for the most part and I was especially moved by her descriptions of their visit to the orphanage. The dream sequences, however, seemed weird and out of place. I'd rather have just read the memoir straight through without those.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Tip: DON'T READ THE BACK OF THIS BOOK BEFORE READING! My husband gave me that advice and I'm so glad I listened. I think the publisher was worried about attracting readers and gave away one of the most compelling parts of this true story. Russell is a quasi-Buddhist and her experiences in China were quirky to say the least. She ended up seeing some really revealing things that normally tourists don't get to experience in the People's Republic of China. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and really pr Tip: DON'T READ THE BACK OF THIS BOOK BEFORE READING! My husband gave me that advice and I'm so glad I listened. I think the publisher was worried about attracting readers and gave away one of the most compelling parts of this true story. Russell is a quasi-Buddhist and her experiences in China were quirky to say the least. She ended up seeing some really revealing things that normally tourists don't get to experience in the People's Republic of China. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and really pray that Russell finds the truth she's looking for. A sad, funny, triumphant read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cristen

    I picked this book up on a whim during a used book sale at my library a year ago. I think I liked the cover. It wasn't until I turned it over yesterday morning that I even realized it was a true story and, truth be told, not the kind of thing I would ever read. But, I decided to give it a try. It took me less than 24 hours to whip through it. "Forever Lily" is an absolutely captivating, heart-wrenching and transformative read. Above all else, it's HOPEFUL. The bond described in this book is a bo I picked this book up on a whim during a used book sale at my library a year ago. I think I liked the cover. It wasn't until I turned it over yesterday morning that I even realized it was a true story and, truth be told, not the kind of thing I would ever read. But, I decided to give it a try. It took me less than 24 hours to whip through it. "Forever Lily" is an absolutely captivating, heart-wrenching and transformative read. Above all else, it's HOPEFUL. The bond described in this book is a bond I feel with my own mother, something that transends time and this life. It's not going to be for all audiences. But, for those who need it, I think it's going to be the perfect book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Roberta

    This book was haunting. It's an incredible story of how this woman falls into a situation where she becomes the adoptive mother of a Chinese orphan. Although most of the book was fascinating, from her impressions of China, her descriptions of the oppression, the people, the tension in the whole adoption process, there are parts where she writes of her dreams that were a little hokey to me and I could have done without. Sort of a past life connection thing she's trying to convey, which is hard to This book was haunting. It's an incredible story of how this woman falls into a situation where she becomes the adoptive mother of a Chinese orphan. Although most of the book was fascinating, from her impressions of China, her descriptions of the oppression, the people, the tension in the whole adoption process, there are parts where she writes of her dreams that were a little hokey to me and I could have done without. Sort of a past life connection thing she's trying to convey, which is hard to convincingly.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Overall, a fairly good book. The discussion of the adoption was interesting to me, however the mystic dream sequence that runs throughout the book was very distracting and a little over the top for my personal taste. I was also quite shocked with the whole premise of the book, that a potential adoptive parent could go through the entire international adoption process, only to refuse the child once she received her. I would have liked to have seen the author delve more into the issue of the initi Overall, a fairly good book. The discussion of the adoption was interesting to me, however the mystic dream sequence that runs throughout the book was very distracting and a little over the top for my personal taste. I was also quite shocked with the whole premise of the book, that a potential adoptive parent could go through the entire international adoption process, only to refuse the child once she received her. I would have liked to have seen the author delve more into the issue of the initial rejection of the child, in addition to the details of her own surprising journey motherhood.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It took me awhile to finish this but not because I couldn't get into it, but rather it's just a very intense book that I had to read in small chunks without overwhelming myself. It was beautifully written, such an amazing story that I am still a bit surprised at its non-fiction label - I'm not sure I buy into the whole past lives thing but it's a deeply fascinating idea to me. I was especially moved by the scenes in the chinese Orphanages - this book made me want to go out and adpot several Chin It took me awhile to finish this but not because I couldn't get into it, but rather it's just a very intense book that I had to read in small chunks without overwhelming myself. It was beautifully written, such an amazing story that I am still a bit surprised at its non-fiction label - I'm not sure I buy into the whole past lives thing but it's a deeply fascinating idea to me. I was especially moved by the scenes in the chinese Orphanages - this book made me want to go out and adpot several Chinese daughters, just to play my part. :P

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    Very insightful read about a spiritual woman who travels to China to help an acquaintance go through with the final stages of adopting a Chinese baby. The friend gets cold feet as soon as the baby is handed to her, while the author bonds very intensely with the young Chinese girl. At the same time, the author is having dreams about herself as a previous Chinese girl who marries the Emperor of Imperial China. The combination of past life glimpses, the author's spiritual life and the bond that she Very insightful read about a spiritual woman who travels to China to help an acquaintance go through with the final stages of adopting a Chinese baby. The friend gets cold feet as soon as the baby is handed to her, while the author bonds very intensely with the young Chinese girl. At the same time, the author is having dreams about herself as a previous Chinese girl who marries the Emperor of Imperial China. The combination of past life glimpses, the author's spiritual life and the bond that she feels with the Chinese baby girl are absolutely beautiful.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bree

    Argh, this book. I wanted to read it SO badly, it sounded so amazing. Too bad the author is totally high on herself and a bit crazy, too. I was irritated right off the bat with her new-agey dream sequences, and then the way she talked about herself being so in tune with herself and searching for something by travelling. Gag. Get over yourself already. Though admittedly, I'm not into that whole meditation/new-age/in-tune with my body, soul, etc stuff. Argh, this book. I wanted to read it SO badly, it sounded so amazing. Too bad the author is totally high on herself and a bit crazy, too. I was irritated right off the bat with her new-agey dream sequences, and then the way she talked about herself being so in tune with herself and searching for something by travelling. Gag. Get over yourself already. Though admittedly, I'm not into that whole meditation/new-age/in-tune with my body, soul, etc stuff.

  20. 5 out of 5

    mari jaye

    this review probably isn't quite fair because i didn't read anything that was italicized, which would be the entire sub-plot about her dreams, and about 1/4 of this book. i was more interested in her strange experience accompanying her friend to china to complete an adoption. the friend's behavior is insanely baffling but it helps paint a picture that prospective adoptive parents should possibly see. this review probably isn't quite fair because i didn't read anything that was italicized, which would be the entire sub-plot about her dreams, and about 1/4 of this book. i was more interested in her strange experience accompanying her friend to china to complete an adoption. the friend's behavior is insanely baffling but it helps paint a picture that prospective adoptive parents should possibly see.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rj

    I really hated this book, not that it was poorly written but I felt that the author was arrogant and it is not representative of the majority of international adoption. THere is also a depreesive condition that can occur during adoption and I think the author may have taken advantage of the other adoptive mother.

  22. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    The book is worth reading for the scenes from China and the plight of abandoned baby girls but the dream sequences are simply strange. My advice is to skip the dream passages in italics, they add nothing to the story.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elley Murray

    UGH. So bad I couldn't finish it. I wanted to like this book - it's a good story idea. Too filled with new-agey wishy-washy dream crap and internal dialogue. Barf-o-rama. UGH. So bad I couldn't finish it. I wanted to like this book - it's a good story idea. Too filled with new-agey wishy-washy dream crap and internal dialogue. Barf-o-rama.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    The cover of this book spoke to me so many years ago. (Like when you meet someone and feel an immediate connection and it seems your bond was forged long ago and even time could not loosen it?) I placed this title on my “want to read” list in late 2009 but was unable to locate a copy. I finally secured a paperback copy through an inter-library loan. (Did this book reveal itself to me only when I was meant to find it?) Forever Lily reads more like magical realism than memoir as the author recounts The cover of this book spoke to me so many years ago. (Like when you meet someone and feel an immediate connection and it seems your bond was forged long ago and even time could not loosen it?) I placed this title on my “want to read” list in late 2009 but was unable to locate a copy. I finally secured a paperback copy through an inter-library loan. (Did this book reveal itself to me only when I was meant to find it?) Forever Lily reads more like magical realism than memoir as the author recounts what she understands to be a past life. That said, this story captivated me. Without the historical references this would have been a riveting story. Some reviewers found the past-life references tedious but I thoroughly disagree. I found the parallel stories intriguing. (Call me hippy-dippy?) So many themes here spoke to me; Western versus Eastern theology, humanity in general and parent/motherhood specifically, prayer, inner peace. On prayer: “I never understood about prayer, what it is, or what it is supposed to do... until Josephine taught me that prayer is using your will to align the mind with the highest principles, to open a channel through which peace can come.” On humanity: “An epic internal struggle, the nexus of all choice ... Ego or spirit? Love or fear? Humanity or brutality? Hope or despair? Life or death? In every life there comes a time when the final choice between opposites must be made.” “We anesthetize ourselves, don’t we? ... I realize that I always have; that I’ve always chosen to do without heart-stopping joy if I could avoid the other end, the blind despair that comes with the inevitable loss of that joy.” “For what does not change must die, and I want to live.” On parenthood: “ ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself,’ says Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, and I know now that longing is the force that draws all living things together. ... For when fear and desire die, only the unspeakable reality of love remains.” “It is my greatest wish that you be whole and happy and free. I have never wanted anything so much, yet felt at such a loss to achieve it.” And then there was this, on the Great Wall: “The Wall was built to keep out invading armies. It never did. Instead, it served as an invitation, rather than a deterrent, because building a wall indicates weakness, a perceived vulnerability to attack. And once built, the separation and isolation that the wall enforces weakens the society further. To an enemy, the Wall was like blood in water to a shark, it whetted the appetite.” (*sigh* I’ll just leave that right here, shall I?”)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    I have been to China three times and want to adopt in the future. I love travel journaling and it's nice to read new perspectives. However, I didn't expect this author to basically write about her dreams that don't even make sense. She then details them in long drippy paragraphs. As she writes about traveling with her friend, I feel bad for her friend because of the way the author describes their relationship. It feels as if the author has always been resentful of Alex. She even describes them a I have been to China three times and want to adopt in the future. I love travel journaling and it's nice to read new perspectives. However, I didn't expect this author to basically write about her dreams that don't even make sense. She then details them in long drippy paragraphs. As she writes about traveling with her friend, I feel bad for her friend because of the way the author describes their relationship. It feels as if the author has always been resentful of Alex. She even describes them as just being just social friends and not much more. However, as the adoption part continues you feel like Alex is having a major crisis and isn't thinking clearly. I loved the chapters where the baby comes and the bond that Beth forms with her. It again reaffirms how special adoption is. If only it had been a small article for a magazine or something to inspire others to adopt. This book didn't need to be written in this way. Especially with the random dreams dissected every chapter. I also felt this book was on giant anxiety attack. Alex was anxious the whole time, and seemed borderline psychotic. It was one big emotional drip. Who knows where Beth's dreams and her reality meet. She seemed to have so many people visit her on her way back to the States and then they vanish. Then to leave the book with its final statement that she IS Chinese. That's a tall order and rather odd a thing to say. I appreciate the author saving Lily from such a mom as Alex and saving her from a Chinese orphanage. Alex clearly is so wishywashy, she couldn't stand on her own two feet. But if you want a book on adoption, their are definitely better executed books.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I truly loved this book by the end of it. I had no idea how the storyline would go except that it was about an impromptu adoption of a baby girl from China. How dreams were intertwined with the adoption of Lily in the story was really unsettling and amazing! The writing style was unique in the best of ways, but the author's ability to summon emotions from her lovely storytelling was the highlight! As someone longing to adopt internationally for many years, this book was a blessing and grand adve I truly loved this book by the end of it. I had no idea how the storyline would go except that it was about an impromptu adoption of a baby girl from China. How dreams were intertwined with the adoption of Lily in the story was really unsettling and amazing! The writing style was unique in the best of ways, but the author's ability to summon emotions from her lovely storytelling was the highlight! As someone longing to adopt internationally for many years, this book was a blessing and grand adventure. #AdoptionRocks :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Delaney

    The pacing felt off in the first half of the book. Going back and forth between the ancient Empress stories and present timeline made things feel discombobulated. It started to become an easier read about 150 pages in.. reading in 2020, this book felt VERY dated.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ti

    Alex and her husband are in the final stages of adopting a child from China. Alex asks her friend Beth to accompany her on the trip to China. Beth is hesitant at first. Why wouldn't Alex want her own husband to go with her? After thinking it over, Beth decides to go along figuring it would be quite an adventure and something to add to her travel journal. What she does not anticipate, is the strong emotional bond she feels when she sees the child for the first time. My reading of this novel could n Alex and her husband are in the final stages of adopting a child from China. Alex asks her friend Beth to accompany her on the trip to China. Beth is hesitant at first. Why wouldn't Alex want her own husband to go with her? After thinking it over, Beth decides to go along figuring it would be quite an adventure and something to add to her travel journal. What she does not anticipate, is the strong emotional bond she feels when she sees the child for the first time. My reading of this novel could not have been timed better. A close friend of mine just returned from a trip to China and she shared dozens of pictures with me, along with stories about the people, the culture, etc. As I was reading Beth's story, much of what she said corresponded to what my friend told me. This really set the scene for me and by page 50 I was completely engrossed. Although Beth is there to accompany Alex, she is deeply affected by the adoption process and haunted by the children that are left behind. The detail in which Beth tells the story is at times heart wrenching, but very well written. Here's an example: "What happens when one is confronted with the sick, the neglected, the dirty? Either the heart opens, or it slams shut against the assault. Is this a choice or a reaction born of a million prior choices? What happens when love does not come?" Although the book does not go into great detail about the living conditions in which these children live, there is enough detail there to make you want to book a flight to China if only to save one child. Russell does an excellent job of allowing you into her world. You see China the way she saw it and you feel her frustration and helplessness as she tells her story. Although I was deeply moved by the book, I was distracted by the frequent dream sequences. Throughout the story, Russell shares the dreams that she had during the trip. At first I read all of the dream entries, but after a dozen or so, I began to skip them in order to get back to the story. The interview at the back of the book says that the actual dreams were more fractured when she had them, but upon return from the trip, through meditation, she spent a great deal of time reentering the dreams which she admits were past-life experiences. This allowed for more detailed accounts which were included in the book. Overall, I enjoyed the book and felt it was well written, but I don't think the dream sequences were necessary. Knowing that little has changed with China since this book was written, I think it would be a good book for a prospective parent to read...especially one who is considering an international adoption. It doesn't give you all the specifics as far as the requirements of course, but it does pose some serious questions that a prospective parent should consider very carefully before going through with the process. As far as book groups, I think there would be plenty for a group to discuss. The idea of international adoption is controversial on its own, but there's a lot going on between Alex and Beth that I cannot get into without giving the story away.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    When Beth Nonte Russell is asked to travel with a friend to China to help her adopt a child from an orphanage Beth is excited. She is filled with anticipation of her friend bringing home a child and excitement for the trip to China. Once at the orphanage Russell's friend Alex becomes nervous and panicked about becoming the mother of the frail Chinese baby. As Beth forms a bond with the baby Alex becomes more distant. Alex feels like she was lied to by the adoption agency. The baby is older than When Beth Nonte Russell is asked to travel with a friend to China to help her adopt a child from an orphanage Beth is excited. She is filled with anticipation of her friend bringing home a child and excitement for the trip to China. Once at the orphanage Russell's friend Alex becomes nervous and panicked about becoming the mother of the frail Chinese baby. As Beth forms a bond with the baby Alex becomes more distant. Alex feels like she was lied to by the adoption agency. The baby is older than she had been told and is small for her age. Alex realized she has no maternal instinct towards the baby and begins to pull away. Beth feeds the baby, dresses her and takes care of her while they tour the sights. She tries to bring Alex closer to the child but repeatedly fails. Swept up in the strange surroundings and culture she is experiencing Russell begins having odd dreams of an ancient life. Her dreams change the way she views the adoption and the life of the small child. As it becomes obvious that Alex will leave the baby behind Russell begins to struggle with her own connection to the baby. She calls her husband for support and begins her search for a loop hole that will allow this little girl to come to America. Will she find some way to make the little girl her daughter or will Chinese red tape surrounding the adoption put the brakes on happily ever after? Forever Lily; An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in China by Beth Nonte Russell is a magical mesh of ancient and modern life. Russell tells the story of her journey through a Chinese orphanage and the road that leads her home. The tale of happy adoption unfolds all around her while she fights to make an abandoned little girl her own. I found myself questioning how Alex could plan for so long, make the trip to China, meet the baby and then question whether she can take her home. I love the dream sequences in this book. They left me wanting to read just one more chapter. The book transitions beautifully from the ancient dreams to the present. The dreams are a rich tapestry of history and ancient life in China. The book is both heart breaking and joyful. It puts a whole new spin on international adoption and the effort that goes into it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ivy

    Beth is traveling with her friend, Alex, to China in hopes of assisting Alex with her adoption of a baby girl. But from the beginning Alex is withdrawn and uncertain, finally realizing that she cannot bring herself to accept the child after all. Beth, who has bonded with the baby, agrees to take her and begins her own spiritual and emotional journey to make it a reality. The author points out that adoption need not be just a conscious decision but a spiritual one as well, and that sometimes the Beth is traveling with her friend, Alex, to China in hopes of assisting Alex with her adoption of a baby girl. But from the beginning Alex is withdrawn and uncertain, finally realizing that she cannot bring herself to accept the child after all. Beth, who has bonded with the baby, agrees to take her and begins her own spiritual and emotional journey to make it a reality. The author points out that adoption need not be just a conscious decision but a spiritual one as well, and that sometimes the best laid out plans can backfire if they are not truly meant to be. Because the author writes her story from a deeply spiritual point of view, it becomes a turnoff for those who have no interest in the spiritual perspective, as previous negative reviews here have shown. Therefore, if destiny, karma or any kind of spiritual perspective is not your cup of tea, this may not be the book for you. Ms. Russell's writings are beautifully descriptive, taking us with her on her journey of sights, sounds and smells through China, as well making us share in her anguish during her visit to her baby's orphanage and the countless moments of uncertainty at Alex's hands. (From a mother's point of view I cannot fault the author for being more than a little exasperated with Alex. She spends her time handing Beth the baby then taking her back. Alex pulls her chain to the point where you can't fault the author for shedding her in an unfavorable light. Accusing the author of airing dirty laundry, as one reviewer puts it, is ludicrous because she misses the point the author is trying to make--the conflict comes from unresolved issues within Alex which, in Beth's opinion, is horribly self-centered behavior that should take a backseat to the real important issue: the baby's best interests.) Ms. Russell also admits her own prejudices of the Chinese people and learns to understand that that which she mistook for suspicious in those around her was really a quiet dignity when she looked with better eyes. Beth Nonte Russell gives us a beautifully written story of her adoption experience that should be read by all considering adoption.

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