Friday, September 27, 2013

Instant Mom review

Instant Mom
by Nia Vardalos
April 2013

This was a fast read. A quick and enjoyable book for anyone who is thinking about adoption. In many ways, Vardalos seems to struggle to openly talk about the heartrending process of struggling with fertility and turning to adoption - as a comedian, she was always quick to gloss over any dramatic moment and throw in a joke or quick quip instead. The book starts with an extended apology - because she values her privacy, she admits that she leaves many details out. This is really too bad. I think those personal details are exactly what would have really brought this book to life.

While she doesn't make a huge point of it, it's obvious that she and her husband, after struggling a bit in the early days, must be multi-millionaires after the success of Big Greek Wedding. She does over a dozen IVF treatments, without even considering the cost. She decides to take a year off and not work just to get her head together.

I liked that Vardalos wanted to write a success story about adopting from foster care - she's right that only the stories of horrible abuse hit the press and skew the public's perception. She puts in a cheerful plug for explaining that there are thousands of children legally free for adoption. I still remain very skeptical, however. Check out the site - I challenge anyone to find an adorable cherub in good health with no mental or physical disabilities under the age of 4 available for adoption such as her daughter. The vast majority of toddlers available for adoption through foster care are deeply, profoundly disabled and most will never lead normal lives. Again, I think this is a spot where Nia's wealth and fame served her well. I doubt your average citizen would so quickly be offered such a great placement.

Vardalos has a sharp eye for how women interact with each other and talks about the difference between women who are supportive of each other (the way we all should be!) vs. what she calls, "BWS" or women with "Beautiful Woman Syndrome" - well-meaning, but ignorant women who think that their beauty substitutes for brains and loudly like to crow their uninformed opinions to anyone within earshot, vs. "The Coven" - catty women who only exist to tear each other down.

The second half of the book reads like any parent who is just besotted with his or her child. Vardalos admits that she has a big mouth, and she can't stop herself from nattering on and on about her perfect and charming her little girl is. Her daughter's biggest problem is fear of abandonment which manifests itself in fear of sleeping by herself. I enjoyed the story of how Nia and her husband took turns sleeping in a cot by their new daughter's bed, slowly inching the cot away bit by bit as their child grew more comfortable. I also loved the story of how they used their dog Manny to get closer to their daughter, pretending to make a "Manny cake."

Again, this is a fun, quick read, but not as emotionally honest or gripping as other adoption memoirs out there. Try Dan Savage's The Kid for a more in-depth, gritty yet still humorous adoption success story.

I borrowed this book from the library.

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