Families come in many shapes, sizes

Highlands Ranch author bases story in part on her own experience


A letter from Highlands Ranch author Eleanor Brown is enclosed in the review copy of her latest novel, “Any Other Family.” The book will be on sale in early July and is partly based on her own experience. It will be a good one to tuck in a suitcase if travel is scheduled

“Four years ago, my OB/GYN called late at night. `I had a patient in for her annual exam,’ she said, `but it turns out she’s six months pregnant. She’s making a plan for adoption, and you were the first people I thought of. Do you want a baby?’”

They did indeed, went for subsequent prenatal appointments and were present when he was born. It was an open adoption, where the birth family and the adoptive family stay in touch. Brown realized how little people know about open adoption and that led her to do what she knows how to do: write a book about it-- including a really unusual family formed by three couples and a single mother who adopted siblings born to a particular couple who would be together for a while, then drift apart — placing four resulting children for adoption over the course of the book. The families stay in touch with the birth mother and she visits with them at times. (Extensive sociological analysis about why these birth parents behave as they do is left for another book.)

In Brown’s story, these adoptive parents hope to keep the children connected as they grow up, planning frequent contacts between them, which of course means frequent contact among the parental characters — and expected difficult interactions at times. The three couples and the single mom bring a variety of personalities into the story and as the children begin to walk, talk and attend school, likenesses and differences among them appear. This book spells out a different way to manage adoptions than the traditional situations where there is no contact nor information for a child as he grows and begins to wonder.

Brown is skilled at creating characters and expressing a wide range of reactions and feelings as her story progresses. And every so often there is a shaded page describing an unnamed character with a particular experience or idea who resembles one of these parents. Not a device I’d seen before, but it works in this book to fill out why and how the parental characters interact and respond to the kids and to each other, backtracking into the formative years of the principals to varying degrees.

The children in question range from a baby to an almost-teen and Brown doesn’t moralize about the birth parents, but just tells a compelling tale about a complex arrangement with a lot of moving parts!

She skillfully interweaves back stories into a summer visit by the seven parental types and assorted kids to a rental home in Aspen — and how each character responds to new situations. Complicated project, skillfully carried out by Brown, whose previous books include “The Weird Sisters,” “The Light of Paris” and the anthology, “A Paris All Your Own.”


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