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Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love

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Her young life changed in an instant. Now she shares her story with the child she gave away. Adopted at birth, Marylee's parents told her she was a "chosen child." She tried her hardest to be a model daughter, but divorce sent her into the comforting arms of a handsome Catholic boy. It's a familiar story. Romeo meets Juliet. She counts the hours till they meet again. Starry- Her young life changed in an instant. Now she shares her story with the child she gave away. Adopted at birth, Marylee's parents told her she was a "chosen child." She tried her hardest to be a model daughter, but divorce sent her into the comforting arms of a handsome Catholic boy. It's a familiar story. Romeo meets Juliet. She counts the hours till they meet again. Starry-eyed, she surrenders to passion. And, here the story takes an unfortunate turn. The year was 1961. She was barely sixteen. Pregnant girls were sent away, and their babies given up for adoption. Nature vs. nurture: Which plays a greater role in who we become? The family we were raised in, or the parents we never knew? Untangling these braided strands takes decades. In telling her adult son the story of his birth, can the narrator find compassion for her own wounded inner child? If you like truthful accounts laced with the passion of youth and the wisdom of age, read Marylee MacDonald's funny and poignant memoir about how we grow up, grow old, and learn to accept ourselves.


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Her young life changed in an instant. Now she shares her story with the child she gave away. Adopted at birth, Marylee's parents told her she was a "chosen child." She tried her hardest to be a model daughter, but divorce sent her into the comforting arms of a handsome Catholic boy. It's a familiar story. Romeo meets Juliet. She counts the hours till they meet again. Starry- Her young life changed in an instant. Now she shares her story with the child she gave away. Adopted at birth, Marylee's parents told her she was a "chosen child." She tried her hardest to be a model daughter, but divorce sent her into the comforting arms of a handsome Catholic boy. It's a familiar story. Romeo meets Juliet. She counts the hours till they meet again. Starry-eyed, she surrenders to passion. And, here the story takes an unfortunate turn. The year was 1961. She was barely sixteen. Pregnant girls were sent away, and their babies given up for adoption. Nature vs. nurture: Which plays a greater role in who we become? The family we were raised in, or the parents we never knew? Untangling these braided strands takes decades. In telling her adult son the story of his birth, can the narrator find compassion for her own wounded inner child? If you like truthful accounts laced with the passion of youth and the wisdom of age, read Marylee MacDonald's funny and poignant memoir about how we grow up, grow old, and learn to accept ourselves.

30 review for Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love

  1. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Singrey

    This author has a unique view of adoption, as she's both adopted herself and surrendered a child for adoption as a teen. This book covers the long-term effects of those choices, on her adoptive parents, on her and on the son she gives up. The author also incorporated research on the psychological impact of adoption, which I thought was a nice touch. The second half of the book - which primarily focused on her time in a home for unwed pregnant girls in Phoenix - tugged at the heartstrings. As a t This author has a unique view of adoption, as she's both adopted herself and surrendered a child for adoption as a teen. This book covers the long-term effects of those choices, on her adoptive parents, on her and on the son she gives up. The author also incorporated research on the psychological impact of adoption, which I thought was a nice touch. The second half of the book - which primarily focused on her time in a home for unwed pregnant girls in Phoenix - tugged at the heartstrings. As a teen, Marylee was forced into others' view of what her life should be, and those decisions echoed throughout the adult years. She describes the sense of loss both she and the son she surrendered for adoption have as they meet each other and grasp all the memories they missed out on. I enjoyed the author's style and how she organized the chapters to tell the story. She definitely lead a very interesting life! I'd read more from this author.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karri

    Have you ever read a heartbreaking tale that just changes your perspective and fills you with empathy and compassion for people you have never met? Well, if not - this is that book. The details paint a clear picture of that time and the brokenness of humanity. It shines a light that we as a society are currently not doing much better despite looking back and being able to see a little clearer the pain that came with those choices. You feel for all parties involved - the mothers, the babies. And Have you ever read a heartbreaking tale that just changes your perspective and fills you with empathy and compassion for people you have never met? Well, if not - this is that book. The details paint a clear picture of that time and the brokenness of humanity. It shines a light that we as a society are currently not doing much better despite looking back and being able to see a little clearer the pain that came with those choices. You feel for all parties involved - the mothers, the babies. And yet there is hope. It starts as a glimmer and yet the story does not leave you cold and sad, but is mixed with wonder and life. The story makes you feel like you are right there with the people - the same fears, dread, and pain - the same heartache and hope swirled together in the complexity of life. This is a book to treasure, to read multiple times, and process as you go.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paula Ludwigson

    This book was a birthday gift; otherwise I probably would have missed reading this, and that would have been a loss for me. I do like memoirs, especially when they present just a portion of the author's life, as I can look forward to more information about Marylee in the future. This life is about an adoptee who becomes pregnant as a teen and gives up her baby for adoption. She ends up marrying the father later, has more children with him, he dies young, etc. It is a book of big ideas - abandonm This book was a birthday gift; otherwise I probably would have missed reading this, and that would have been a loss for me. I do like memoirs, especially when they present just a portion of the author's life, as I can look forward to more information about Marylee in the future. This life is about an adoptee who becomes pregnant as a teen and gives up her baby for adoption. She ends up marrying the father later, has more children with him, he dies young, etc. It is a book of big ideas - abandonment, loss, redemption, anger, and joy. I grew up Catholic, although a few years younger than the author, but much of what she experienced I did also. I certainly knew girls who went to what we called "Girls' Homes" to have their babies. This certainly affirmed my belief, even as I speak with my own daughter, the girl always ends up paying the price, making the tough decisions and the boy has the option to stay involved or walk away. He may have to pay money, but he doesn't carry the child for 9 months. I have recently begun exploring my family's ancestry, and it struck me that adoptees lose that feeling of belonging to a blood family - wow! A perhaps small thing but one of many that make the adoptee feel different from others, and what kid doesn't struggle to fit in. While I appreciated the author's inclusion of medical experts about the effects of adoption and teenage pregnancy, the passages felt awkward and forced. I would recommend this book and hope that Marylee continues to share her journey with readers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mallory

    This is a well written memoir focusing on a mother’s experience of having to give up her oldest child for adoption. I really enjoyed the parts that were about the author’s own experiences both in her childhood and her pregnancy. It was a different time and it was interesting (and horrifying) to read about how difficult it was before easy access birth control options. It was sad to think that it was not just teenagers in the home for unwed mothers - the term was literal and there were women of al This is a well written memoir focusing on a mother’s experience of having to give up her oldest child for adoption. I really enjoyed the parts that were about the author’s own experiences both in her childhood and her pregnancy. It was a different time and it was interesting (and horrifying) to read about how difficult it was before easy access birth control options. It was sad to think that it was not just teenagers in the home for unwed mothers - the term was literal and there were women of all ages forced to hide away their pregnancy. I didn’t love as much the author’s descriptions of how adoption greatly negatively impacts a child at a biological level. I know this is not the only opinion and the presentation of it as fact irked me. I also struggled with the author’s devotion to her boyfriend, but that struggle was good as it forced to me to step away from my perspective and step into her shoes. A good book challenges your perspective and this book did that. It also highlighted how far women’s rights and reproduction rights have come and only cemented how important those are.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Surrender is the perfect title for this book. The author has experienced so much of that in her life, for her own birth mother surrendered her at birth, and then she in turn surrendered her baby when she was pregnant and unwed at age 16. While there may be plenty of memoirs about adoptions, this story is unique in that the author/birth mother went on to marry the father of the child given up for adoption just two years after the child's birth. The book feels like an intimate and honest conversat Surrender is the perfect title for this book. The author has experienced so much of that in her life, for her own birth mother surrendered her at birth, and then she in turn surrendered her baby when she was pregnant and unwed at age 16. While there may be plenty of memoirs about adoptions, this story is unique in that the author/birth mother went on to marry the father of the child given up for adoption just two years after the child's birth. The book feels like an intimate and honest conversation with a friend who is baring her soul. The personal photograph of the author as a newly-adopted infant helps readers to understand the author's emotions as she frankly discusses that feeling of never really fitting in with the family who adopted her. I liked the fact that author Marylee MacDonald discusses her mental struggles with her husband's career choices as a university professor. The writing continues to be realistic with the inclusion of some bitter comments exchanged between husband and wife as they try to sort out the trajectory of their life together. One such memorable, albeit not laudable, comment was when her husband reminded her that his career as a professor was what allowed her the freedom to call herself a writer. I am not a person who thinks of memoirs when asked to write my favorite type of book. However, after reading the first few chapters on BookishFirst, I knew I wanted to read the rest of Surrender and clicked through to order it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Fink

    4.5* Thank you Bookish First for a copy in exchange for an honest review! Learn to Forget: A Memoir of Pregnancy and Adoption From the first page I knew I would love this book. Memoirs are becoming one of my favorite genres because of how emotionally tied I become to the person, but I felt this even more with Marylee’s story. Knowing that what is written actually happen just has a different effect on me. It’s crazy reading everything that she went through. If nothing said this was a real-life stor 4.5* Thank you Bookish First for a copy in exchange for an honest review! Learn to Forget: A Memoir of Pregnancy and Adoption From the first page I knew I would love this book. Memoirs are becoming one of my favorite genres because of how emotionally tied I become to the person, but I felt this even more with Marylee’s story. Knowing that what is written actually happen just has a different effect on me. It’s crazy reading everything that she went through. If nothing said this was a real-life story, I would think it was a work of fiction and that is a compliment. The way she expressed her experiences was like you were right there with her. I liked that this memoir doesn’t feel like a memoir. It is written as a story taking us through step by step. This memoir covered her journey as she tried to find her child she surrendered at a young age. It tells us her experience before becoming pregnant, what led to her being pregnant and what happened in her life because she became pregnant. It was very interesting to see how people in that time reacted to her getting pregnant that young and out of wed lock. Truly it took me by surprise all that they had to sacrifice to keep it a secret. Even though I don’t think I would ever be able to give up my child she explained it in such a logical way of why she felt forced. I felt the pressure from the people around her and social expectations. I also had many moments where I felt bad for her and understood her pain. Like when she realized she wished she was able to keep him. At first, I wasn’t sure how this book would be able to last over 300 pages but after reading it I feel like we need a sequel. She was only able to touch the surface of her life. At the end you get a quick overview of what happened after her first pregnancy and I am just amazed at what she has gone through and accomplished in her life. I was never bored in this book. I was always engaged waiting to see what happened next. This book really had a great impact on me, and I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon. This is my favorite memoir I have ever read. Her writing style made it interesting but also for me I have always been drawn to stories where they are emotionally tied like surrendering a child. An impactful story and I definitely recommend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Spence

    Marylee Benham and her boyfriend John MacDonald were teenage sweethearts. Both hard-working, brilliant students, they carried an unusual weight of responsibility, Marylee for her older, unwell, divorced mother, and John for helping out in his household of seven siblings. Responsible as they were in their daily lives, they got “caught.” Marylee got pregnant at the age of fifteen, and gave birth at sixteen in a home for unwed mothers. She carried her baby for nine months, but he was snatched away b Marylee Benham and her boyfriend John MacDonald were teenage sweethearts. Both hard-working, brilliant students, they carried an unusual weight of responsibility, Marylee for her older, unwell, divorced mother, and John for helping out in his household of seven siblings. Responsible as they were in their daily lives, they got “caught.” Marylee got pregnant at the age of fifteen, and gave birth at sixteen in a home for unwed mothers. She carried her baby for nine months, but he was snatched away before she had a chance to hold him. This story of what it was like for unwed mothers in 1961 pulls at the heart-strings. An adoptee herself, Marylee MacDonald was always aware of the pain these children carry, an ache that echoes that of their birth mothers. New research has discovered that the bond between mother and baby is physical as well as emotional. This powerful book made me angry at the patriarchy that insists it knows best how to control female bodies. Not only was this twentieth-century removal of infants at birth cruel to their mothers, but the babies suffered as well. It made me think of modern-day practices that allow surrogacy and assume the gestational mother, whether she is the genetic mother or not, will be able to give up a child without long-term consequences. In both cases, the infant is a commodity, and the birth mother merely a vehicle for someone else’s desires. This memoir is not only intimate and personal, but hinges on public debates that continue today and could not be more timely.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joan Gibson

    I first read Marylee’s book before it was published, then couldn’t wait until it became available to order in print, as I intend to distribute a few copies into the world. Since it’s 2020 and we are still collectively having the same old conversation about women’s bodies and reproductive rights, I consider this is a timely release. I’m sure this was a difficult book for the author to write. She adeptly travels back in time to her younger self, retrieving long buried feelings, dark experiences, a I first read Marylee’s book before it was published, then couldn’t wait until it became available to order in print, as I intend to distribute a few copies into the world. Since it’s 2020 and we are still collectively having the same old conversation about women’s bodies and reproductive rights, I consider this is a timely release. I’m sure this was a difficult book for the author to write. She adeptly travels back in time to her younger self, retrieving long buried feelings, dark experiences, and, by the end, a hard-won grace that maybe, just maybe, puts the tumultuous events of her extraordinary life into perspective. I salute the bravery it took to write and publish this book. In our tell-all age of living large on social media, pursuing the digital limelight at all costs, it is both refreshing and fascinating to visit a time and place where keeping certain things private is a requirement of the social contract. Old conditioning dies hard though, and anything involving shame or profound grief or anger can often takes a lifetime to work through. Surrender is a book that shows us how.

  9. 5 out of 5

    litandcoffee

    MacDonald’s memoir is both an unforgettable and exquisitely written narrative of the complex psychological impact of adoption and a journey to understanding and acceptance. MacDonald was born to a fifteen-year-old unwed girl in 1945 and adopted by a middle-aged couple Rex and Lorene Benham. Vividly capturing her life as an adoptee and a mother who had to relinquish her firstborn, MacDonald begins with her life as an obedient little girl in the Benham home, and continues through her parents’ trou MacDonald’s memoir is both an unforgettable and exquisitely written narrative of the complex psychological impact of adoption and a journey to understanding and acceptance. MacDonald was born to a fifteen-year-old unwed girl in 1945 and adopted by a middle-aged couple Rex and Lorene Benham. Vividly capturing her life as an adoptee and a mother who had to relinquish her firstborn, MacDonald begins with her life as an obedient little girl in the Benham home, and continues through her parents’ troubled divorce, her teenage pregnancy, her time in the Phoenix Florence Crittenton Home for unwed mothers followed by the relinquishment of her firstborn son, and her struggles to understand her own sense of alienation and emotional brittleness. Expert references on adoption and psychology provide authenticity to her story. MacDonald highlights the unfair social practices of the time when it comes to teenage pregnancy and divorce. However, she places the greatest emphasis on the displacement that newborn adoptees have to go through, depicting it as an essentially destructive process that leaves life-long scars on a person’s psyche. Readers of all stripes will feel compassion for the circumstances of her son’s adoption and her anguish at giving him up. Painfully honest, very personal, and compelling, this poignant account makes for a must-read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Keerthi

    I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that are mysterious. I could also see a little bit of romance involved. I know that personally, I would be re-reading this book over and over. I can’t get enough. Once again, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience this majestic world and would totally recommend it to other bookworms like myself! The front cover was amazing and colorful and really drew me towards this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    An

    Surrender by Marylee MacDonald is an emotionally wrought memoir of the hard choices a woman is forced into when she becomes pregnant out of wedlock. MacDonald writes poignantly about her personal experiences and shares many nuggets of wisdom, though what was most striking about MacDonald's account is that it is not a unique one. During the 1970s, women in similar circumstances were often sent away and forced to give their infants up for adoption, thereby causing irreparable harm to both mother a Surrender by Marylee MacDonald is an emotionally wrought memoir of the hard choices a woman is forced into when she becomes pregnant out of wedlock. MacDonald writes poignantly about her personal experiences and shares many nuggets of wisdom, though what was most striking about MacDonald's account is that it is not a unique one. During the 1970s, women in similar circumstances were often sent away and forced to give their infants up for adoption, thereby causing irreparable harm to both mother and child. If anything, MacDonald's memoir highlights the importance of providing women with essential support and resources such as birth control and sexual health care. Note: my review is based on an excerpt

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    The experience of reading this novel is best summed up in a quote from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The storyline is heart-wrenching, something sure to have the reader in tears by the end of the story. The novel tells a story of humanity, love, and ultimately sacrifice. The characters capture a certain aspect of humanity that so many other authors fail to do. Additionally, the writing style is beautiful. The diction and syntax that The experience of reading this novel is best summed up in a quote from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." The storyline is heart-wrenching, something sure to have the reader in tears by the end of the story. The novel tells a story of humanity, love, and ultimately sacrifice. The characters capture a certain aspect of humanity that so many other authors fail to do. Additionally, the writing style is beautiful. The diction and syntax that she uses and the way in which she employs the nuances of language to better her story add an element of sophistication to the story. To be quite honest, this is not my typical genre of book, but I absolutely could not put this novel down. I read the whole thing in one day and I was sobbing by the end. Definitely definitely definitely go read this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marylee MacDonald

    Readers can walk down Memory Lane, back to 1961 and the days before family planning.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bisma Khan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love by Marylee MacDonald It is a moving coming-of-age story about adoption straight from the heart. The author's memoir chronicles a life of difficult circumstances and heartbreaking decisions and her lifelong path to healing. From the first few paragraphs, you will be touched by how adoption shaped her--from birth, through her formative years, and later, as a teenager and the surrender of her firstborn child from an unplanned pregnancy. The author ca Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love by Marylee MacDonald It is a moving coming-of-age story about adoption straight from the heart. The author's memoir chronicles a life of difficult circumstances and heartbreaking decisions and her lifelong path to healing. From the first few paragraphs, you will be touched by how adoption shaped her--from birth, through her formative years, and later, as a teenager and the surrender of her firstborn child from an unplanned pregnancy. The author captures the feelings, turmoil, and issues of living with uncertainty, confusion, and lack of support. You begin to realize that a significant number of adopted children must experience some of the same emotions and struggles. Her craving to sort out nature/nurture is a significant theme, as is her quest to nurture the child inside that lost out on so much. The book begins with MacDonald immediately disclosing that she'd had a child out of wedlock who was put up for adoption, Marylee signing away her rights in perpetuity as she penned her name on a dotted line. Later, she marries her lost son's father, and the two have more children. MacDonald has great difficulty coming to terms with her loss, understanding the need for an individual to know their genetic history as an adoptee herself, but also in filling the dark void that had established itself in her life following John's adoption. Their reunion is an emotional experience, and after describing it, MacDonald backtracks to the history that brought her story to fruition. Surrender is an exceptionally well-written memoir that is immersive from the beginning. Marylee Macdonald wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, which is helpful in an autobiography about a non-celebrity and engages a reader in a way that makes them want to carry on. I loved the honesty MacDonald sustains through the narrative, a whole-hearted truthfulness that puts her struggles in the light of authenticity. While she does attach her motive for putting John up for adoption as a norm for the time, she also makes clear the regret and hardship that follow a decision made by a naive sixteen-year-old in an incredibly tricky situation. It's incredible to me that MacDonald, her first husband John, and her second Bruce, we're all educated and accomplished, a distinguished circumstance that separates MacDonald from the usual stereotype of women raised during the time. This is an extraordinary story that I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to read. From all angles, adoption seems to have permeated the author's life, and she has a beautiful way of conveying all the nuanced thoughts that come with it. I like that the book reads like a fiction novel and a memoir, complete with exciting dialogue, conflict, and pacing. MacDonald's style is honest yet full of grace. I like that she gives a brief introduction to her adoption and the surrendering of her son. Then, backtracks slowly pull you into the story and her inner conflicts and how they affect her relationships, decisions, and self-image. The opening dialogue with her husband, Bruce, about moving to Phoenix is a priceless slice of life. It's about control, and you can cut the tense realism with a knife. As the story moves through its arcs and her desire to connect with her oldest child, you will be drawn deeper and deeper into it until you become a part of this woman's life in a way and will find yourself relating to her, even though you may or may not have any experience with adoption. Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love by Marylee MacDonald is a must-have for your reading pile.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Team Golfwell

    I enjoyed reading “Surrender, A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love” by an exceptional and award-winning author, Marylee MacDonald. In my opinion, this story is immensely powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring as the author boldly confesses her experiences of being adopted, giving up her own child, and other challenges and her recovery all told in a highly professional way offering readers insight and enabling the reader to gain and experience more meaningful moments in their own lives. I fel I enjoyed reading “Surrender, A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love” by an exceptional and award-winning author, Marylee MacDonald. In my opinion, this story is immensely powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring as the author boldly confesses her experiences of being adopted, giving up her own child, and other challenges and her recovery all told in a highly professional way offering readers insight and enabling the reader to gain and experience more meaningful moments in their own lives. I felt this outstanding book is highly emotional and professionally written and it gave me a greater understanding of the major challenges most women face every day. The book opens dramatically, “When I was sixteen and not yet wise enough to know what it meant to have a child and lose him, I surrendered my firstborn son. He was adopted. For the years of his youth, he was my ghost child. On good days I imagined him biking to the library or knocking helmets in a Pop Warner game. On bad days I pictured him dying and in need of a bone marrow transplant. I had never held him, not even as a newborn, and I had only briefly seen his face. Two years after his birth, I married his father, and we had four more children, full siblings to my absent child. When he turned twenty-one, I searched for him." From that point on, the story gets increasingly fascinating and left me with thoughts that stayed with me after finishing the book as I find I stop and view life now from the perspective of others more than I used to in the fast-paced world we live in. The dialogue was very good and well recreated, “Seeing me hesitate, Mrs. Sherron said, “You know, this is a selfless act.” I stared at her concerned gray eyes and lined face. A grown-up. She didn’t have any doubts. “I know,” I said. “It’s just that …” “You’re giving a childless couple the greatest gift possible,” she said, “and you should feel good that your son will be raised in a loving Catholic family.” I sat there, wanting to feel a saintly glow. What was wrong with me? My son would have two parents. Catholics. They would give him all the advantages. I picked up the pen and signed. Mrs. Sherron called in two witnesses and affixed her signature. “Now you can go on with your own life. Put this experience behind you.” Over the years, I have wondered if she, or any of the social workers who facilitated adoptions, truly understood what those words meant." I also enjoy reading fast-paced stories and especially enjoy a true story that is told well with increasing pace up to the ending as this brilliant author has done in this very sincere and heartfelt book. In my opinion, this is an excellent book that is exceptionally well done and very worth reading. I find also that I am not the same person as I was before prior to reading this book. Highly recommended and very well done! It was my pleasure to receive a free copy of this book but that does not in any way affect my opinions in this review of this exceptional book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Clancy

    *Thank you to BookishFirst, Grand Canyon Press, and the author for an advanced copy of this memoir in exchange for an honest review* Oftentimes I am amazed by the very simple fact that everyone has different lives and lived experiences, which is the reason why I love memoirs. In Marylee MacDonald's book, Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love, I was once again greeted with a life experience so unlike my own. I flew through this book in a matter of days and was intrigued not only by the *Thank you to BookishFirst, Grand Canyon Press, and the author for an advanced copy of this memoir in exchange for an honest review* Oftentimes I am amazed by the very simple fact that everyone has different lives and lived experiences, which is the reason why I love memoirs. In Marylee MacDonald's book, Surrender: A Memoir of Nature, Nurture, and Love, I was once again greeted with a life experience so unlike my own. I flew through this book in a matter of days and was intrigued not only by the descriptions of the author's pregnancy and adoption processes but also by the complex relationships within the author's life. Marylee MacDonald writes about her own experiences and the personal traumas associated with those experiences in a way that is both heartbreaking and profoundly moving. What I most enjoyed about this memoir was the writing and descriptions- the author did a fantastic job at illustrating what being an unwed, pregnant teenager might have been like in the 1950's when reproductive rights were non-existent and saving face for both the expectant mother and their families was paramount. Prior to reading this memoir, I was not familiar that the adoption process did not allow for mother's to have no contact with their children, nor was I familiar with the term surrendering a child. Now, I have a clearer understanding of the difficulties these expectant mother's might have gone through as told through the vivid life story of the author. This leads to what I really appreciated from this book, Marylee MacDonald's frank discussion on trauma surrounding adoption and how it infiltrates every aspect of life and self-worth. The memoir asks the hard question, is nature or nurture more important in the life an adopted child? In the 1950's, adoptions were based primarily on physical attributes rather than personality and little knowledge of the baby's parents was shared with the adoptive parents which could make developing relationships challenging for both adoptive parents and the adopted child. These children knew what nurture was from their adopted parents, but were not permitted to know their nature. The significance of this statement was clearly shown in the author's own and oftentimes strained relationship with her adopted mother, and then further shown by the author's son John and his estranged relationship with his own adopted mother and the importance of the reunion with his own biological mother, Marylee. I would definitely recommend this memoir to have a better understanding the adoption process for children in the 1950's/1960's and earlier. While I hope that the adoption process has advanced with a better understanding of psychology, it is important to listen to the stories of those who have lived and shared their experiences. I am grateful to Marylee MacDonald for showing what it means to her to heal and for sharing some of the most impactful moments in her life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Fink

    4.5 stars* Thanks to Bookish-First and the Author for a finished copy in exchange for an honest review! I don’t even know where to start with this review. Words can’t do it justice. The emotions and the impact that this book brought out was stunning. The author had a way of making me hold my breath. The fact that this all really happened is mind boggling. It was written in a way that we felt like we were right there with her. She wasn’t just telling us her story; she was walking through it with us 4.5 stars* Thanks to Bookish-First and the Author for a finished copy in exchange for an honest review! I don’t even know where to start with this review. Words can’t do it justice. The emotions and the impact that this book brought out was stunning. The author had a way of making me hold my breath. The fact that this all really happened is mind boggling. It was written in a way that we felt like we were right there with her. She wasn’t just telling us her story; she was walking through it with us. I was engaged, and by no means can anyone say this was boring. It feels weird saying that I “enjoyed” reading this book, because if I had gone through what she went though it would NOT have been a thing of enjoyment, but I really did enjoy my time reading. Once I sat down to read, I didn’t want to stop. It pulled me in. Yes, this book is a breathtaking story of what it was like for someone to get pregnant so young in a time like this, and have to give up a child, but it was so much more. It was a story of growth, of looking into one’s self, and of making life’s hard choices and learning from mistakes. We explored different relationships and experiences that the author had, as well as a glimpse of the impact that being adopted has a person. You can tell how much experience the author has, and how strong it has made her. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to give up your child. I learned a lot in this book. The mental side of what happens with adoption and also the legal side. It was interesting to see the way people reacted to the news and also what was done to cover up pregnancies. I’ve heard of homes for unwed mothers, but I liked seeing the experience that the author had actually living in one. I have to be honest; this review took me a long time to write. I wasn’t sure how to word everything or even how to get my thoughts together. I’m sure I didn’t even scratch the surface of everything amazing in this book. I’m sure in a few days I’ll think of all the other things I could have put in this review(because yes I’ll be thinking a long time about this book), but there is really only one way to explain myself and how I feel. You have to read this book. It’s a journey you won’t regret.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ *No quote because I already sent this off to my aunt to read before jotting down my favorite lines* Thank you to BookishFirst and Grand Canyon Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I am usually a fiction reader, and that perhaps was the most difficult part of reading Surrender. The end of the story is told in the beginning, in the about the author section, and even in the free excerpt. This is the memoir of someone adopted at a young age who then found he ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ *No quote because I already sent this off to my aunt to read before jotting down my favorite lines* Thank you to BookishFirst and Grand Canyon Press for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! I am usually a fiction reader, and that perhaps was the most difficult part of reading Surrender. The end of the story is told in the beginning, in the about the author section, and even in the free excerpt. This is the memoir of someone adopted at a young age who then found herself forced to adopt out her own child at a young age. Despite knowing this, I found myself hoping for a happy ending throughout the entire book. It was heartbreaking how much Marylee went through during this pregnancy while John (other than working for his father) got to continue living life to fullest. This story makes me grateful for the educational opportunities afforded to both young women and men on the practices of safe sex and birth control. We had multiple seminars at freshman orientation at university on that and consent that were not available to previous generations, something I realize my annoyed eighteen year old self took for granted. As a wife of a soldier, I could also relate to the frustration of being expected to pick up and move wherever your husband's job calls for it. This book will always be memorable to me as I began reading it during a pandemic, during the end of my husband's first deployment, and my first year living completely alone. This honest and raw memoir felt like a close friend during a sea of polite small talk and telling people I was fine as to not be a burden. Even better, in the final chapters, I put this book down to open presents at home, and found under the tree an unofficial adoption certificate from my mom to me! I am so happy that the author was able to find and reconnect with her son years ago! I wonder if this process, of finding one's biological child, is any easier in the 2020s. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in memoirs, the complicated puzzles of what 'family' means, or those interested in the ordeals of adoption and teen pregnancy during the 1960s.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tara Jennings

    This book was quite gut wrenching and emotional for me so I could just imagine having to be the one with the firsthand experience and writing this! The author herself was adopted and then later on gives up her child for adoption. Not only is there the research angle to what happens through adoption psychologically but it is so raw and deep that you feel so many emotions reading this. This book brought me back t standing in the middle of the girls labeled "broken" in the group home that have fami This book was quite gut wrenching and emotional for me so I could just imagine having to be the one with the firsthand experience and writing this! The author herself was adopted and then later on gives up her child for adoption. Not only is there the research angle to what happens through adoption psychologically but it is so raw and deep that you feel so many emotions reading this. This book brought me back t standing in the middle of the girls labeled "broken" in the group home that have families but don't feel like they belong. They became part of the system and some were put into foster care and have had a rough go at finding an adoptive family that will be able to help everyday with the trauma some of the have faced. To say in the least that this pulled at the heart strings is an understatement!! While not one person will face the exact same situation and outcome, this book really gives readers an inside look to adoption, the long term effects, so many emotional turns to how adoption is processed, and just how mankind can be. Humanity needs a wake up call, and hopefully we can start doing better than we have. Thank you for the chance to read and review this book, I found it very emotional and enjoyable and left my honest opinion on it. I was highly impressed at the writing and the outpour of vulnerability put into writing this for the world to read. I received a winning copy of this through a Bookishfirst contest.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    What a story! Marylee MacDonald writes with honesty and clarity of her incredible life. As an adoptee, she was shocked to discover that she and her birth mother shared teen pregnancy in common. When she gets pregnant at 15 in 1961, there are few options available except residency in a Phoenix home for unwed mothers. There, she meets fellow girls and grown women who are shut away to hide their precarious predicament. Separated from the boy she loves (and whom she'll later marry), we see what a wo What a story! Marylee MacDonald writes with honesty and clarity of her incredible life. As an adoptee, she was shocked to discover that she and her birth mother shared teen pregnancy in common. When she gets pregnant at 15 in 1961, there are few options available except residency in a Phoenix home for unwed mothers. There, she meets fellow girls and grown women who are shut away to hide their precarious predicament. Separated from the boy she loves (and whom she'll later marry), we see what a world without available birth control and safe and legal abortions does to girls and women. While her boyfriend is back in California being hailed as a model athlete and student, recommended to West Point by a local congressman, Marylee is subjected to a shared room, shaming weekly weigh-ins, gaslighting by a meddlesome administrator bent on breaking her spirit, and forced to diet in the middle of a pregnancy. Forced to give birth while her wrists and ankles are strapped to the delivery table, she's then coerced into signing away the child she desperately wants. Despite this trauma, Marylee goes on to birth four more children with her high school sweetheart, graduate with honors from Stanford, and thrive as a single mother of four young children when her husband is killed in a car accident. Don't miss this read if you want to understand what the world was like for women and girls not so very long ago. This books will make a feminist of any person with a heart, brain, or soul.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hinal Shah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I usually don’t read memoirs however Surrender by Marylee MacDonald just hooked me from the first page. It is always interesting to read the stories others have lived but the emotions that the book brought on is what made it impossible to put down. The way it was written makes it feel like a story, which is another aspect that I liked. The memoir covered her journey of trying to find her son who she surrendered at a young age. There is a nice flow to her story ask she narrates her experiences fr I usually don’t read memoirs however Surrender by Marylee MacDonald just hooked me from the first page. It is always interesting to read the stories others have lived but the emotions that the book brought on is what made it impossible to put down. The way it was written makes it feel like a story, which is another aspect that I liked. The memoir covered her journey of trying to find her son who she surrendered at a young age. There is a nice flow to her story ask she narrates her experiences from having a child from before she was married. The memoir tells a story of how difficult decisions are made when a woman is in a position like that. It also shows how in the 1970s women are sent away and made to have their children put up for adoption and how difficult and harmful that is for both the mother and child. It just shows how some choices are not choices at all which I believe many women can relate to. While reading I could feel the pressure, she had from the people around her to make her give up her son which just showed that woman in this situation need more support not to be hidden away because of social expectation and reputations. In all, it was a very good read and very difficult for me to put down. It was impactful and it has become one of my favorites. I would recommend this book. Note: I received a free copy of the book though bookishfirst in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A moving, emotional memoir about what happened to the author before, during and after placing a child up for adoption as well as how being adopted herself affected her life choices. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the ways in which it encapsulated so many emotions throughout its pages. The story starts when the author is much older with a new husband and several adult children in her life. She has always wondered what happened to the child she had given up for adoption...what was his life like A moving, emotional memoir about what happened to the author before, during and after placing a child up for adoption as well as how being adopted herself affected her life choices. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the ways in which it encapsulated so many emotions throughout its pages. The story starts when the author is much older with a new husband and several adult children in her life. She has always wondered what happened to the child she had given up for adoption...what was his life like, how was his adoptive family toward him, was he loved? She is finally able to reconnect with him and soon finds herself retelling and reliving her life from the very beginning. Wrought with emotion, both good and bad, the author takes us on a deep and touching journey through her life as a product of adoption and through the process of placing her son up for adoption. From the memory of how she was told that she was adopted and its impact on her, to living in a home for unwed mothers while awaiting the birth of her first child during her teenager years, this is a story that will stick with you. Thank you to Marylee MacDonald and BookishFirst for the ARC in return for an honest review!

  23. 5 out of 5

    MizzyRed

    I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I think I am torn between two opinions with this book. I really liked the memoir part with Marylee relating her childhood and what it was like to grow up in the family she did. It was interesting to learn about how teen pregnancies were like back so long ago with all the stigma and what the girls had to go through (Marylee went secretly to a home for unwed mothers to deliver her baby and then give him u I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I think I am torn between two opinions with this book. I really liked the memoir part with Marylee relating her childhood and what it was like to grow up in the family she did. It was interesting to learn about how teen pregnancies were like back so long ago with all the stigma and what the girls had to go through (Marylee went secretly to a home for unwed mothers to deliver her baby and then give him up for adoption). Those parts were all fascinating. The parts I did not care for were that the author described adoption as just a bad thing for the children involved, how it displaced them and made them feel like they had no place. I do not think all adopted kids feel that way and I wish she could have balanced her opinions with other views so that the reader could compare and decide for themselves. I did enjoy reading this book and it would be a great memoir except for the only negative comments about the adoption process.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I don't read nonfiction very often. This however was a wonderfully written memoir that I am so glad I took a chance on. I read the first look on Bookishfirst. The writing was beautiful and the story hooked me. Marylee was adopted as an infant. She gets pregnant at 15 and heads to a home for pregnant unwed women. She has her baby and surrenders it but stays with the boyfriend (father of the baby). She eventually marries him and they have more kids. This story is a full emotional rollercoaster. It I don't read nonfiction very often. This however was a wonderfully written memoir that I am so glad I took a chance on. I read the first look on Bookishfirst. The writing was beautiful and the story hooked me. Marylee was adopted as an infant. She gets pregnant at 15 and heads to a home for pregnant unwed women. She has her baby and surrenders it but stays with the boyfriend (father of the baby). She eventually marries him and they have more kids. This story is a full emotional rollercoaster. It must have been so scary to have gone through this at that point in time at a young age. I can't even imagine. I love that she married the child's father in the end because they were in love the whole time. It gave a very interesting perspective on adoption as well. Thanks to bookishfirst and the publisher for this review copy to review. I definitely recommend this book. It was a great change of pace for me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    K.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. *I received a copy in exchange for an honest review* *My review contains spoilers* The best kinds of memoirs are the ones that make the reader question their worldview on something, or look inside themselves and re-evaluate something in their own lives. This book was one of those excellent finds that stand out among memoirs. The story, while describing the author's journey and growth through pain and trauma, showed depth. It also captured some of the era's norms that helped to shape the life and st *I received a copy in exchange for an honest review* *My review contains spoilers* The best kinds of memoirs are the ones that make the reader question their worldview on something, or look inside themselves and re-evaluate something in their own lives. This book was one of those excellent finds that stand out among memoirs. The story, while describing the author's journey and growth through pain and trauma, showed depth. It also captured some of the era's norms that helped to shape the life and story of the woman and mother. There was much strength, raw honesty, and hope displayed throughout this story of struggle, internal journey, and courage. The writing style was quite pleasant to read. I appreciated the author's voice and careful balance of infusing the story with the appropriate amount of emotions while continuing to move the story forward.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mridula

    I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that I’m so grateful that I got to experience this wonderful world that the author has created. I could tell that this book involved an abundance of creativity and that it will be a big hit. The cover captured me and the storyline satisfied me. I love that this book is set in a storyline which enhances the book itself. The author made this book so amazing and I would totally recommend that people buy it when it gets released. I would most definitely rate this five stars for people who like books that are mysterious. I could also see a little bit of romance involved. I know that personally, I would be re-reading this book over and over. I can’t get enough. Once again, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to experience this majestic world and would totally recommend it to other bookworms like myself! The front cover was amazing and colorful and really drew me towards this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Madsen

    What a touching and heart wrenching memoir. The unbelievable happenstance of tragedy happening twice in a family, MacDonald’s unique experience of loss and identity is a must read. The book reads like lunch with a trusted friend, drawing you in first as a friendly ear to give support and to listen. However, MacDonald’s story is so compelling that you forget to order and before you notice it, hours go by. It’s a book that begs you to keep reading to understand the how and why. You are drawn into What a touching and heart wrenching memoir. The unbelievable happenstance of tragedy happening twice in a family, MacDonald’s unique experience of loss and identity is a must read. The book reads like lunch with a trusted friend, drawing you in first as a friendly ear to give support and to listen. However, MacDonald’s story is so compelling that you forget to order and before you notice it, hours go by. It’s a book that begs you to keep reading to understand the how and why. You are drawn into MacDonald’s world, who was raised and came of age at a time where gender expectations were so very different and women were often expected to make unbelievable decisions in order to fit in society. This book is must read for women young and old to show just how far we’ve come as a society, and how much we have to lose if we allow our rights as women to be given away.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elida Liederbach

    I am lucky to have received this copy from Bookishfirst and was excited to get this memoir. I had read another book on stories by this author that was beautifully written so was not surprised when I started this book full of emotions that allowed you to surrender to all she encountered. The story is not new, it is about how family shapes us and how we make mistakes in life. Women have not had access to birth control and a teen pregnancy occurs, where their are little choices. The choice is made I am lucky to have received this copy from Bookishfirst and was excited to get this memoir. I had read another book on stories by this author that was beautifully written so was not surprised when I started this book full of emotions that allowed you to surrender to all she encountered. The story is not new, it is about how family shapes us and how we make mistakes in life. Women have not had access to birth control and a teen pregnancy occurs, where their are little choices. The choice is made for adoption and it shapes your life and controls your thoughts for the rest of your life. So when you need to tell that child their story, this book will capture the heartbreak, anguish and a story of allowing you to understand there was no other choice. Wonderfully written.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Marylee MacDonald is one of the most masterful memoirists I've had the pleasure of reading. The sensitivity with which she approaches the fraught subject of adoption is hard-won, and she balances her firsthand experience with careful research that makes this story more than just one woman's personal account. And it's not all pathos—part of the reason MacDonald shines so as a writer is that she knows how to intersperse moments of deep loss and confusion with hilarity and dry wit that made me laug Marylee MacDonald is one of the most masterful memoirists I've had the pleasure of reading. The sensitivity with which she approaches the fraught subject of adoption is hard-won, and she balances her firsthand experience with careful research that makes this story more than just one woman's personal account. And it's not all pathos—part of the reason MacDonald shines so as a writer is that she knows how to intersperse moments of deep loss and confusion with hilarity and dry wit that made me laugh out loud. At its heart, this is a love story, about the love between two young parents, about a little girl's search for love from her parents, and about the author's love for her children. Surely, all of us can find some of ourselves in it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    S.G. Wright

    This moving memoir has some eye-opening insights into adoption and its impacts by a woman who was adopted and also surrendered her first son to adoption in 1961. I liked how her story starts in the present times -- what happened to her son ... & their eventual reunion -- and circles back to her days growing up as an adoptee with her divorced mother ... and how she got involved at a young age with her high school sweetheart, which eventually led her being sent to an unwed mothers home in Phoenix. This moving memoir has some eye-opening insights into adoption and its impacts by a woman who was adopted and also surrendered her first son to adoption in 1961. I liked how her story starts in the present times -- what happened to her son ... & their eventual reunion -- and circles back to her days growing up as an adoptee with her divorced mother ... and how she got involved at a young age with her high school sweetheart, which eventually led her being sent to an unwed mothers home in Phoenix. Her storytelling puts you into her shoes as a naive 16 year old and gives you a good sense of what it was like in 1961 without much family planning services and birth control. The author's candid soul-searching about her circumstances & what happened also make it a compelling read.

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