A Focused Mind, A Bursting Heart

Karen Pickell’s story “The Letter,” in Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype (Adult Adoptee Anthology), takes the reader on an emotional ride through the narrator’s mind.

The scenario is simple, chronicling the trip to mail a letter.  The narrator is an adult adoptee with children of her own. Through a “Search Angel,” she has found the name and address of her original mother and has carefully composed a letter to her. The story begins when the narrator is getting dressed in the morning, the letter already sealed, stamped, and addressed.

The narrative is addressed to this mother, the intended recipient of the letter. In one beautiful rushing movement, like a wave that dissolves into another wave which then dissolves into another, the narrator shares her varied thoughts about the letter, her mother, her adoption, her own needs and wants, and the politics of adoption.

If that sounds like everything including the kitchen sink, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s all so seamless, so intense, and so well thought out.

The narrator is understanding about the reasons her mother wouldn’t have been able to keep her. She understands about being a Catholic girl, about what it might have been like in 1968, about how her grandparents could have had a hand in the turn the story took.

Her mind worries through a list of all that can go wrong with the letter itself. It could fall under her car tire if she throws it in the mailbox. It could be opened by a man in her mother’s house–someone who will throw it away.  Her mother might throw it away herself, without even reading it.

If her mind sounds a little obsessive, that makes sense. The narrator has been waiting 37 years for this moment. She’s nervous, and it shows in her thinking.

Underneath all that thinking is her bursting heart.

As the waves move forward, each one breaking gently into the next, the suspense builds.  Will she actually be able to mail the letter?

I guess you’ll have to read this story yourself. Did I mention that it brought me to tears? I suspect it will bring you to tears, too.

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