I finished reading Mridula Koshy’s book Not Only the Things That Have Happened. I definitely recommend it, particularly for individuals experienced with trans-racial adoption. Koshy’s writing is thick and rich from the very first page. I will admit, for me, the first third of the book was tragically slow and lacked something for me to feel fully engaged. I suspect this was rooted at least partly in the fact the first part of the book takes place in India and I was confused by cultural references and even character alignment. It took me a bit too long to figure out who was related to whom and in what order the fell in the family. I figured it out eventually. I figured out who was the “birth” mother, the child, the family and their reaction to an unwed mother in India. The flow and character confusion corrected itself as I approached the middle of the book where we are finally introduced to Asa, the trans-racial adoptee, living in the U.S. We meet him as an adult and we get flashbacks into his adoption, growing up, etc.
I found the plot, the dialogue and the characters to be very well developed but I will have to defer on the accuracy. I cannot speak to the international adoption / trans-racial perspective at all (even if I could identify with the birth mothers dying wish to find her son). There is an excellent piece of dialogue between Asa (the adoptee) and his adoptive mother towards the end of the book that I commend the author for writing. Really tough stuff but so good to get this out in a book.
A few passages to highlight my points:
Page 313, Asa, the transracial adoptee explaining why he tells stories (by making up stories as to who he is and where he comes from)
“I don’t know who I am. I try on stories to see if I can fool people into believing that I am somebody. But maybe also to fool me. I don’t know. I don’t know what my mother looks like. Where she is. When I am near people like you, white people, you know I am not from your group. But when I go to another group they think the same. Black people. Indian people. They all know. So who am I?”
This passage and earlier ones involving Asa reminded me, rather painfully, of a friend I once had. She was also adopted and she, like Asa, had a tendency to change personalities, even names. She was incredibly talented in so many ways but she was such a liar that you could never believe her and as such never trust her. She was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. My heart ached for her while reading this book as many of Asa’s troubles my former friend also experienced. Most notably the inability to form intimate relationships and keep them as well as the extreme ability to charm and eventually con people.
Page 334, Asa, the adoptee in a discussion about his adoption with his adoptive mother, Marge:
“Marge, the problem with the story you tell [about his adoption] is that it starts here, where you are. If you are from here, it is a great story. If you are not, then…I am your son. But before I was that, what if there was something then too?”
There is more but I would be retyping the book. I will say my only official “complaint” to the author (if one can log such a thing) is the inconclusive ending. I was hoping Asa would be back to India and find the first family that was also searching for him.