top of page

Surrendered Child:

A Birth Mother's Journey.

The real achievement of this memoir lies in the failure of reason to account fully for actions.  If McElmurray could ever explain how she gave up her son, she might finally be able to relinquish the guilt of having done so.  But her search provides context, not excuses; and the responsibility of her action remains with her and sets the course of her life. --Southern Review

While memoirs by foster parents and adopted children crowd bookshelves, we haven't heard as much from the women who've given up those children for adoption. McElmurray may seem a typical birth mother-a working-class teen unprepared to raise a child-until she describes her own upbringing. When McElmurray was 12 or 13, her mother, gripped by a cleanliness fetish, still insisted on supervising her on the toilet, wiping her bottom. Both daughter and father had to shower in the garage before coming inside. Meals, too, could be messy, so they ate only processed, packaged foods. When McElmurray started dating, her mother's vigilance heightened, and before long, her compulsions resulted in divorce. McElmurray moved in with her father, but thanks to his lax supervision and lack of contraceptive coaching, she was pregnant at 15. In Kentucky in 1971, a girl could run away and do drugs for a while-which McElmurray did-before coming home and marrying. Ignoring her father's pleas, the author still signed the baby over for adoption. That McElmurray made it out of her trailer-park marriage, out of secretarial and fast food jobs, through college and on to teaching creative writing courses is admirable. That she reached the self-awareness to birth this remarkable memoir is a gift both to her son and to readers. --Publisher’s Weekly

McElmurray’s memoir strikingly dramatizes the challenges to plot conventions and to temporal movement that a birthmother’s experience can pose.  She not only records her experiences but renders them aspects of her memoir’s challenging and original form.

--Margaret Homans, The Imprint of Another Life: Adoption Narratives and Human Possiblity 

bottom of page