I picked up The Red Thread by Ann Hood because it is about a few subjects that I am always interested in: motherhood, infertility, and adoption (specifically adoption from China). The book centers around Maya, who runs an adoption agency specializing in Chinese adoption based in Providence, RI (another plus for me, because I went to college there). Maya lost her own baby daughter many years earlier, and the adoption work is her attempt at redemption. (She couldn’t save her own daughter, but she can save many others.)

The chapters rotate among several other characters who are each part of a couple applying to adopt a daughter through Maya’s agency. Each couple has a reason for why they have turned to adoption – infertility, fear of passing along a genetic disease, etc. – and the book traces what brought them to the point of choosing adoption through the process of applying for and being matched with a daughter from China. There are also stories spread throughout the book about mothers (and one father) who gave up their daughters in China for adoption. Those are the babies who end up being matched with the couples in Rhode Island.

So, the good: I liked the couples’ stories, and found the stories set in China to be very sad but compelling. Hood’s writing was generally fine, and the depiction of miscarriage, infertility, and loss of children seemed genuine.

The not so good: the stories were a little pat, tying up too neatly at the end. And some of the prose is ridden with cliches. I don’t know that Hood had anything particularly original to say in The Red Thread. Maya herself was a bit hard to believe – on the one hand she was so capable and sympathetic (though she tended to dismiss her clients’ concerns rather than actually help them work through them), and on the other she was a mess. Some of the other couples didn’t really make sense either, especially one where the husband and wives switched positions on adoption simultaneously (why?!). Also, I have friends who have adopted from China, and the process is MUCH more sped up in The Red Thread than in reality. (Hood’s couples got their babies within a year!)

I enjoyed this book mostly because of the subject matter. I don’t recommend it unless you want to learn more about the process of international adoption, and particularly Chinese adoption, or are otherwise interested in the subject matter. Otherwise you may be disappointed with the cliches and somewhat shallow storytelling.


  • July 19, 2012 - 8:26 am | Permalink

    I do enjoy reading about international adoption but it sounds like there are better written books out there.

  • July 19, 2012 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

    This is a very useful review — I too would have been drawn to the subject, but your review convinced me there are better things to read. (And that, Gayle, is why I love your blog!) A good book with a theme of international adoption though probably not as closely related as this one is “Digging to America” by Anne Tyler, which I am almost sure you’ve read (Gayle) but your readers who are interested in the topic might find worthwhile. I believe this is Ann Hood’s first novel since losing her own young daughter, though she might have published something else in the interim, and that might influence the quality of the writing (and not necessarily for the better) as well.

    • gayle
      July 20, 2012 - 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Nancy – I think you wouldn’t enjoy this one so much. I did read Digging to America and thought it was much more realistic.

  • July 22, 2012 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been quite curious about this one. I’m increasingly fascinated with these issues, so I hope I’ll enjoy those parts as you did.

    • gayle
      July 22, 2012 - 9:36 pm | Permalink

      You may. The more I reflect on this one, the less I like it, I have to say. I think in the end it was a little trite…

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