I recently read New England writer, Meredith Hall’s first book, a memoir titled “Without a Map,” and found it profoundly moving. Here is Beacon Press‘ description:
Meredith Hall’s moving but unsentimental memoir begins in 1965, when she becomes pregnant at sixteen. Shunned by her insular New Hampshire community, she is then kicked out of the house by her mother. Her father and stepmother reluctantly take her in, hiding her before they finally banish her altogether. After giving her baby up for adoption, Hall wanders recklessly through the Middle East, where she survives by selling her possessions and finally her blood. She returns to New England and stitches together a life that encircles her silenced and invisible grief. When he is twenty-one, her lost son finds her. Hall learns that he grew up in gritty poverty with an abusive father in her own father’s hometown. Their reunion is tender, turbulent, and ultimately redemptive. Hall’s parents never ask for her forgiveness, yet as they age, she offers them her love. What sets “Without a Map” apart is the way in which loss and betrayal evolve into compassion, and compassion into wisdom.
Having seen the new movie, “Juno” shortly before I read “Without a Map,” I was struck by the cultural contrast between Hall’s experience as a pregnant 16-year old in 1965, and Juno’s contemporary one. My curiosity led me to read “The Girls who Went Away: The Hidden History Of Women Who Surrendered Children For Adoption In The Decades Before Roe V. Wade.” I am concerned that there may be many New Hampshire women who share Hall’s life-altering experience with pregnancy and adoption, and carry a burden of unresolved grief and shame. New Hampshire and Maine are two of the six U.S. states where adult adoptees have unrestricted access to their own original birth records. There are many online services to aid birth parents who wish to look for adopted children: The Volunteer Search Network, The Adoptee Rights Organization, The Alma Society, Empty Arms Support Group, The American Adoption Congress, to name a few.
If you would like to hear the Meredith Hall interview (with NH author, Rebecca Rule), click here.