Early curiosity. Persistent determination. Unrelenting courage. These are the personal qualities that emerge as Ms. Noonan tells the story of her quest for answers. “Who am I?” “Who are my people?” “Why did they give me away?” The questions are as longstanding as her memories. The active search for answers started in young adulthood and has not stopped. Those personal strengths sustained her on the journey. Yet even as she was discovering astonishing information, seemingly nearing the end of her search for her biological roots, those qualities impelled her to persist with the adventure long enough to pen this book and share her story.
The Fifth and Final Name gives to those of us who are not adoptees a window onto the experiences and feelings of our adopted friends. It illuminates for us the frustrations, pain, and struggles of thousands of adoptees who go through the same search that Ms. Noonan so intriguingly describes. It portrays the hope for access to records and the frustrating disappointment when information is unavailable or access is denied. Whatever you believe about closed adoptions as you begin the book, you certainly will be challenged to ponder the bureaucratic and social injustices of an outdated system that withholds the most basic, the most essential information from persons simply because of the circumstances of their births.
Why read the book? Read it for the unpredictable plot and cast of interesting characters. There is humor and angst and plenty else to warrant the read. Another, perhaps even better reason, though, is for how it just might affect attitudes and opinions. It challenged my notions about the current policies surrounding the adoption process. I will speak up sooner and advocate more energetically on behalf of adoptees’ rights. Perhaps, if enough of us readers have similar responses to Ms. Noonan’s story, the next “Baby Girl Gafford” will receive all the information about her biological heritage that the rest of us have automatically and take for granted. A very good reason to read the book.