THE FINDLINGS opens on a beach as a mother, Grace, fills her pockets with stones and walks with her two young children determinedly into the sea. Thirty years later, the impact of this shocking beginning reverberates through three siblings: Bibi, Victor and Delilah, along with their ghostly sister, Anna, who sometimes functions as the book’s narrator. Unlike some stories of adoption and finding birth parents, THE FINDLINGS considers the idea of how a person comes to decide to begin the search and what even the decision to start looking can mean to their identity. Although author Joanne Wilshin does spend some time with Victor and Delilah and their respective families, this is really Bibi’s story. She is utterly convincing as a woman who has yet to realize her own strength and who spends much of the novel coiled like a spring. Bibi is portrayed as the model of a giving mother, sister, daughter and wife, to the extent that she gives so much that many of the other characters treat her with disdain. Her brother, Victor, is particularly awful. Through the process of deciding to look for her birth mother, her character development is compelling and enormous.
Wilshin uses an interesting device in telling the story in that parts of the novel are narrated by Anna, who is “not alive, not in the carnal sense”. Anna exists to reunite the three siblings and to show them that they have the secret of human happiness within themselves. Through Anna, we see Bibi and Delilah experimenting with dowsing chains, Voodoo dolls and Ouija boards in order to find answers and meaning. These parts of the novel are just as thoughtful as the rest and cannot be dismissed as woo-woo, although sometimes they could do with more development. THE FINDLINGS is a book in which not many events happen, but which still ends with every character having been on a satisfying journey. Wilshin’s use of present tense makes the plotting feel urgent and real and all of the narrative threads are tied together in a way which does not feel contrived. The greatest success of this book is that it makes its readers care deeply about characters who are initially incredibly unsympathetic. Moreover, we as readers have an opportunity to understand more about the lasting and more subtle effects of adoption on families.
Joanne Wilshin’s THE FINDLINGS is an emotional exploration of the impact of adoption on identity. Through its believable and struggling characters, readers are able to understand the complexity of family in all of its forms.
~Amy Arora for IndieReader