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Loving Emma: A Story of Reluctant Motherhood

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Most memoirs speak of family, innocence lost, secrets hidden and later unearthed—or of discoveries that can heal as well as scar. Loving Emma is such a story. It will appeal to all of us who have been a part of a complicated family, who have had to reach into ourselves for the strength and courage to rise to the challenges that face us. Loving Emma is a rich and candid acco Most memoirs speak of family, innocence lost, secrets hidden and later unearthed—or of discoveries that can heal as well as scar. Loving Emma is such a story. It will appeal to all of us who have been a part of a complicated family, who have had to reach into ourselves for the strength and courage to rise to the challenges that face us. Loving Emma is a rich and candid account of one woman’s struggle to be a parent. About to turn fifty, she is asked to take in and raise her partner Gemma’s six-year-old niece. Unwilling and resentful of the task at the start, the author ultimately triumphs over adversity—and tells her tale with tenderness, humor, and blunt honesty. It is also the story of how women nurture children in a culture that is not always supportive, but in a community that always is. Carol A. Ortlip handles the topics of midlife crises, substance abuse, and problems of child-rearing with great aplomb. Carol A. Ortlip, a special education teacher, has held a variety of jobs, from crab-fisher in Alaska to horse-drawn cab driver in Manhattan. She is the author of We Became Like a Hand: A Story of Five Sisters (2002), a family memoir of sisterhood. She lives near Brattleboro, Vermont.


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Most memoirs speak of family, innocence lost, secrets hidden and later unearthed—or of discoveries that can heal as well as scar. Loving Emma is such a story. It will appeal to all of us who have been a part of a complicated family, who have had to reach into ourselves for the strength and courage to rise to the challenges that face us. Loving Emma is a rich and candid acco Most memoirs speak of family, innocence lost, secrets hidden and later unearthed—or of discoveries that can heal as well as scar. Loving Emma is such a story. It will appeal to all of us who have been a part of a complicated family, who have had to reach into ourselves for the strength and courage to rise to the challenges that face us. Loving Emma is a rich and candid account of one woman’s struggle to be a parent. About to turn fifty, she is asked to take in and raise her partner Gemma’s six-year-old niece. Unwilling and resentful of the task at the start, the author ultimately triumphs over adversity—and tells her tale with tenderness, humor, and blunt honesty. It is also the story of how women nurture children in a culture that is not always supportive, but in a community that always is. Carol A. Ortlip handles the topics of midlife crises, substance abuse, and problems of child-rearing with great aplomb. Carol A. Ortlip, a special education teacher, has held a variety of jobs, from crab-fisher in Alaska to horse-drawn cab driver in Manhattan. She is the author of We Became Like a Hand: A Story of Five Sisters (2002), a family memoir of sisterhood. She lives near Brattleboro, Vermont.

14 review for Loving Emma: A Story of Reluctant Motherhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This book was badly in need of an editor! The author made up her own rules about commas and used them to break up her sentences in weirdly jarring ways. Many sentences strung together clauses, nested them, or used modifiers with ambiguous referents. And she claimed that cocaine comes from a cocoa plant. I wasn't expecting the writing to be great and could have maybe looked past it if the story had been more interesting. How could it not be? It's almost a feat that she managed to tell us nothing a This book was badly in need of an editor! The author made up her own rules about commas and used them to break up her sentences in weirdly jarring ways. Many sentences strung together clauses, nested them, or used modifiers with ambiguous referents. And she claimed that cocaine comes from a cocoa plant. I wasn't expecting the writing to be great and could have maybe looked past it if the story had been more interesting. How could it not be? It's almost a feat that she managed to tell us nothing about Emma in over 200 pages about her, except that Emma moves around a lot and has trouble getting to bed or waking up. I could barely even tell how the author felt about Emma. She (the author) just came across as selfish and self-absorbed. I understand being reluctant to adopt a child you haven't sought, but she's resentful even when Emma is crying in her arms, and she repeatedly tells Emma that her birth mother is a jerk. The author's partner is always patronizing her and delivering ultimatums. The chapter all about the dog added nothing to the story. This book was a mess.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Emma's mother, a drug addict, makes the best choice she can for her daughter's future when she asks her sister and Carol to adopt her, but at fifty, Carol is not expecting to become the parent of her partner's six-year-old niece, whom she loves dearly. Carol explores her rage at Emma's mother, her inadequacies and unwillingness as a parent, and her own issues with substance abuse. What she doesn't face are her feelings of anger toward her lover, who she fears losing over Emma.The three struggle Emma's mother, a drug addict, makes the best choice she can for her daughter's future when she asks her sister and Carol to adopt her, but at fifty, Carol is not expecting to become the parent of her partner's six-year-old niece, whom she loves dearly. Carol explores her rage at Emma's mother, her inadequacies and unwillingness as a parent, and her own issues with substance abuse. What she doesn't face are her feelings of anger toward her lover, who she fears losing over Emma.The three struggle to become a family in a variation on the stepparent theme, and many stepparents will see themselves in Carol.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rachel M.

    While an interesting story and one worth telling, Loving Emma could've used some serious editing. This book was terribly organized, didn't flow well, and left many questions unanswered. I also found the chapter titles to be terrible, which lent a rushed, unpolished feel that was difficult to ignore. While an interesting story and one worth telling, Loving Emma could've used some serious editing. This book was terribly organized, didn't flow well, and left many questions unanswered. I also found the chapter titles to be terrible, which lent a rushed, unpolished feel that was difficult to ignore.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diana

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sally Job

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  9. 4 out of 5

    E.d.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alva

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teresa Marie

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma

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