Kara is an eleven-year-old Chinese girl who lives with an old American woman whom she calls Mama. Kara was born with a right hand that had stubs instead of fingers and so her birth parents abandoned her. Mama took her in. And there they've been, in China, ever since.
Mama doesn't go out often. When she does, she makes sure to wear long gloves and a scarf. When visitors come to their small apartment, Mama hides in a room and lets Kara speak to the guest.
Kara is the one who runs errands, buys grocery and borrows money from a teacher-neighbour, Zhang LaoShi. Life is still nice, even though they have been having rice and cabbages for a long while now. Until one day.
Kara learns why Mama made the decision to hide in China with her instead of bringing her to Montana, where Daddy and Jody (Mama's grown-up American daughter) live.
It's all because of one little red book. A hu kou ben - a book that acknowledges her identity and existence. Something Kara doesn't have.
To make matters worse, Jody visits. The day she is supposed to return to America, she collapses. An ambulance arrives. Police arrive. Mama has to go to the hospital. And by now, everyone in the neighbourhood knows about this suspicious American woman with a Chinese girl.
Hiding isn't possible now.
A moving story. I am deeply attracted to Kara's story, and the way she ploughs through the difficulties a child shouldn't have. Yet it is all very close to reality. In China, the government enforces a one-child policy. Any family with more than one child will be fined. And so many parents endure the pressure of giving birth to the 'perfect child.' Children born with a physical or mental defect are usually abandoned. Kara is, honestly, one of the very lucky ones.
In this story, Kara's Mama couldn't bear leaving this beautiful girl and so took her in without the proper adoption papers. Her fate is to hide until she couldn't anymore.
What will happen to Kara? Will she be sent to the orphanage to live there forever, or will she be adopted? By another family? Or by Mama? (The government agencies really didn't like that she'd disobeyed the law.)
Has anyone else read this, or any other book on foster-parenthood/adoption?
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by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.