It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. This book proves such a thing to be true. Barbara Sumner takes us deep into her experience of adoption, the legacy of its trauma and the incredible story of her search for her parents.
In New Zealand, adopted children have little way of finding out their birth identity. Barbara Sumner's birth certificate cited her adoptive parents, Mavis and Max, and the records were sealed to her. Following a stormy adolescence, we meet Barbara as a 23 year of mother of three daughters, all under the age of 3, living in rural isolation with her husband, a religious man who brings in a pastor to rid his wife of the demons that haunt her. The scene is set as Barbara retreats to the bathroom, only feeling connected to herself when underwater, reverting to the safety of the womb before she was separated from her mother.
The yearning in the book is incredible. The way in which Barbara explains the empty ache she feels, the things she can't process, and the connections she's not sure she can make are raw and soul searching and shocking. Her daughters are her lifeline, connecting her to her future and her past. She finds a link to her mother, Pamela, and embarks upon a journey that reads like a tightly plotted novel, events and revelations inspiring awe, shock and the rapid turning of the pages.
Tree of Strangers is an incredible story written by a person the reader comes to know and admire. Through such ongoing trauma there is resilience, strength and hope, for the author, and for many more children searching for themselves.
Join Barbara Sumner in celebrating the launch of Tree of Strangers on Thursday, October 1, 6pm at Wardini Books, Napier. All welcome.