Forever Lily

An Unexpected Mother's Journey to Adoption in ChinaI generally leave the book reviews for my book blog, but wanted to share my opinion of Forever Lily by Beth Nonte Russell since the content may be of interest to the China adoption community.

I came upon this book at the bookstore just a few short days ago and was immediately drawn to the cover art. Forever Lily is a true story, based on Nonte Russell’s own experience, and is tagged as her “unexpected journey into adoption.” The author  became a travel companion for a friend adopting from China. Her friend, Alex, did not bond with the baby and decided (while still in China) that she no longer wanted to bring the baby home.

What I initially thought might be an interesting and thought provoking look into the inner-workings and emotions of international adoption, turned out to be a poorly written and somewhat contrived book.

The book is filled with dream sequences and meditative hallucinations that the author says she had throughout her travels in China. Whether or not she had these vivid dreams, or her “inner visions” as she calls them, seems beside the point of the story. These dreams, while an obvious attempt for the author to link herself to her Chinese daughter, not only distracted from the story but became ridiculous. Filled with Chinese symbolism (monks, concubines, empresses, dragons) and even the Virgin Mary, her visions made me think I was reading an Amy Tan novel. 

I was touched by the author’s description of an orphanage and was glad that the book could give me some insight into the poor conditions that these children live in. Having said that, I was less impressed by the portrayal of Alex, the women who decided not to take the baby. I really would have like to have known, from a psychological perspective, why this woman immediately rejected this baby.    

It is no great secret that the author was able to legally adopt the baby a few months after coming back from China. The love and bonding that Nonte Russell obviously feels for Lily is touching. She rearranged her entire childless life (her step-daughter was already in college) in order to bring this baby home. I only wish that the book itself was a little more informative and less wishy-washy.

For a much more in-depth and interesting look at China adoptions, check out The Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans.

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19 Responses to “Forever Lily”


  1. 1 Becky March 14, 2007 at 1:18 am

    Interesting – makes me think I won’t read it – I did LOVE the Lost Daughters of China!!!!

  2. 2 Stacy March 14, 2007 at 1:30 am

    That really doesn’t sound like a good book. At first I thought it would be one I would pick up, not now. Thanks for reviewing it for us.

  3. 3 Joannah March 14, 2007 at 1:36 am

    Hmmm…

    That’s a shame. I don’t think I’d fork over the money to buy it, but if I see it at the library I may check it out. I’ve read The Lost Daughters of China and I enjoyed it so much.

    My final papers are due this weekend. After that, I’m going to read for pleasure once again! Oh, yeah!!!

  4. 4 Doris Clark March 14, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the review! I had this one on my wish list but now I am rethinking it. I appreciate it as if I am going to read something, I want it to be worth the time and $ to buy the book.

    Keep smilin!

  5. 5 mrsmogul March 14, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    thats a great book cover, I would want to read it just by that!

  6. 6 Wendy March 15, 2007 at 3:51 am

    I was wanting to read this book but I don’t think I will now. Thanks for the review! :o)

  7. 7 epin March 18, 2007 at 3:33 am

    Thanks for the review. I just got the book this weekend as a gift, and now I am not anxious to read it anymore. The author also wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times a couple of months ago, entitled “The Mystery of the Chinese Baby Shortage.” From what I recall, I wasn’t impressed with her reasoning and opinions.

  8. 8 Tammy March 18, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Great book review Stephanie. You could do that for a living. Thanks for the great insight, I probably would’ve wasted my time on that one since the subject matter would have caught my attention. Now, I won’t waste my time & soon as school is out, I’m heading for Jodi Picoult’s latest.

    Hope all is well with you!

  9. 9 Tammy March 19, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Hi Stephanie,
    FYI, I changed my blog address.
    http://www.spillingmycoffee.blogspot.com

  10. 10 lin March 19, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Another book that has the themes of international adoption (Korean and Chinese), culture and interesting for me, first and second generation immigrants I just read was Digging to America by Anne Tyler. I enjoyed reading it, she writes well, I could really understand Sami, his mother and wife and empathize with them.
    Take care, Lin

  11. 11 fred ford March 26, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I agree with your comments about the dream sequences, however ultimately I enjoyed reading the book. I found her descriptions of the adoption and of China to be concise and accurate. I thought the story was beautifully told and it brought back vivid of memories of my visit to China when I adopted my daughter Lila Rose.

    My sole motivation for reading “Forever Lillie” was to provide a competitive title analysis within a book proposal I am preparing. I am in the process of writing a memoir about the adoption titled “A Gift For Lila Rose: A China Adoption Love Story.” Prior to submitting the full transcript, I need to send query letters and a book proposal (bio, overview, marketing plan, competitive titles analysis). I had previously read “Lost Daughters of China” and I’m currently looking for other China adoption memoirs to read. Can you recommend any?

    Thanks.

  12. 12 Katie March 31, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I have to agree with this review. I found the dream sequences annoying and after about the second one stopped reading them. They were ridiculous and really detracted from what COULD have been a good book.

    I found the dealings with Alex to be shallow. Yes, on the surface I could not believe that Alex was behaving in such cold, manipulative ways… but then I questioned what Alex’s side of the story really was. Having gone through the home study and application process, I find it hard to believe that anyone could be as cold and shallow as Alex is in this book. The author works hard to make Alex look bad and herself look good. The author comes off as self righteous. I wish I had not wasted money on this piece of fluff.

  13. 13 Redheaded Chick April 8, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I just read the book, and now your review. I agree with you…I would love to know more about Alex. There was a lot about the author’s actions that I found troublesome. I don’t think I’d like her very much. I also am troubled by the deliberate deception of the Chinese govt. and US consulate.

  14. 14 Sarah April 23, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for saving me the time. Just discovered your blog. Reading 40 Acres and a Family now. Pretty light, but much of it rings true for IVF and Chinese adoption.

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  16. 16 krista January 17, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I read this book recently and I would think that anyone who has adopted from China or who is interested in international adoption would find something to enjoy about it. I’ve read many, many adoption stories and none like this one. There were a couple passages in the book that have haunted me. The first, like an earlier comment mentions, the author describes visiting Lily’s orphanage. The image of a baby reaching out from her crib breaks my heart every time I think of it. The other is a passage where the author describes the moment Lily is brought to Alex and she says, “What I am feeling in this moment is akin to awe; this person who has been rejected and abandoned being carried down the hallway, toward a fate she cannot guess, toward people she does not know, maintaining an expression so serene it is as if she were expecting to be crowned queen.” I think that’s a spectacular, perfect description. Skim over the dreamy parts–especially if you don’t believe in the possibility of metaphysical connections or past-life regression. The story alone is worth it. I think this book is relatively well-written (I have different standards for adoption books) and definitely a story worth reading. Thanks for posting your critique though. It was interesting to read even though I disagree!

  17. 17 Phuong September 10, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I loved the book, it may be “wishy-washy” but I love to read the deep bond she had with her daughter, Lily. I would highly recommend it. Peace!

  18. 18 bloogsRasse July 8, 2010 at 5:46 am

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  1. 1 The Other Boleyn Girl « The Written Word Trackback on March 14, 2007 at 12:51 am

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