Book Review Archives
Title: Son of My Soul: The Adoption of Christopher
Author: Debra Shiveley Welch
Publisher: Saga Books, November 2007
Reviewer: Doug Jenkins
The Author's Website
Debra Shiveley Welch is a weaver; a weaver of words threaded in intricate patterns of varied hues and textures, whose culmination displays an incredible image of love and resolve. She has titled her linguistic tapestry Son of My Soul: The Adoption of Christopher, and it is an account of the adoption of the Welch's son Christopher and, at the same time, an autobiographical account of the author's life.
Mrs. Welch declares to her son the purpose of her writing saying:
"I cannot give you a bloodline: a family tree of ancestors reaching back for hundreds of years. I cannot say, "You look like your grandfather," or "You got that from me." What I can give you is a spiritual heritage: an existence that lived long before you were born. I will weave the fabric of my own story into yours, for although I did not give birth to you, I gave you a life. This history of mine, and of yours, interweaves into a cloth so strong, nothing can tear it.
You are my son, my love, my joy and through my history, you will learn yours …Therefore, my sweet son, I offer you these writings..."
The story begins with the death of Mrs. Welch's mother's brother, Bussy, whose final words to his family as he passed away were "I see children--I see beautiful children! Don't worry. She'll be all right! I'll be there! I'll take care of her!"
Years later, Reva, the author's mother, six months pregnant and suffering from major burns across her body, sees her brother's image before her as she writhes in pain. Thinking he had come to take her and her unborn child "home," the agonized woman stretched her hand toward her long dead sibling, to which he said again, "Don't worry. She'll be all right! I'll take care of her!"
Miraculously, the pain ceased and, to the amazement of her doctors, Reva recovered, carried to term, and delivered a healthy baby girl named Debra.
But Debra's life was not to be as peaceful and healthy as her birth. In fact, the fire of conflict would rage for many years to come. She would suffer the loss of two "fathers" through divorce, familial alienation, and be forced to care for her two half-siblings while her parents engaged in drunken binges and marital infidelities. She would develop anorexia that left her body decimated and her spirit broken, causing her to leave her desperate situation at the earliest possible moment to try to "gain control of [ her] environment." This too failed, however, and life continued on a downward spiral until, two years before the eventual failure of her second marriage, Debra had a near death experience that transformed her perspective and halted her course on the path of destruction.
After years of recovery, Debra meets and marries Mark, and they begin a new kind of family experience--stable, loving, and God-centered. Debra vowed not to have any children of her own making, but determined to be a mother to someone other than her own flesh and bone, perhaps someone who was in danger of being rejected as she had been as a child. That is when, as Mrs. Welch calls it, the Divine Plan went into effect, bringing a one-week old child with a cleft-pallet birth defect into their lives.
This child, rejected by six other families, was not going to be rejected again--he was being adopted as the Welch's own son. The medical and educational mountains the family climbs from that point, only enhance the joy and sense of commitment that has forged a healthy and dynamic family relationship and it serves to enlighten and inspire any half-open heart that will drink in its nourishment.
Though wonderfully poetic and lyrical, the stylistic approach of the author, at times, made me feel as if I was being intrusive on a private conversation. However, Mrs. Welch's willing candidness to share some very poignant and difficult elements of her life was riveting, and seemed to invite me openly, as a reader, to also be adopted into her family. It is an invitation worthy of any reader's acceptance and well worth the small investment of time to read.