Thursday, January 20, 2022

Mini Reviews: Stranger Care and Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger

Sarah and Eric Sentilles make the decision not to have a biological child. Instead, they go through the long and intense process of becoming foster parents. They are thrilled to finally get a call about fostering a baby girl named Coco. The couple welcomes her into their home and makes her a part of their family. And so begins the painful process of getting to know and love a child who was, as Sarah points out, "never ours, yet we belong to each other." 

Stranger Care is a difficult, but important, read. Sentilles is honest about the roller coaster of emotions that she experienced as she came to love this child while also knowing that Coco would likely be reunified with her family. Is it possible to love a child and prepare to let them go at the same time? Sarah and Eric bond with Coco's mother Evelyn and cheer her on as she tries to overcome a drug addiction and find a steady job. In other moments, they quietly hope that Evelyn will fail so they can keep the little girl who has captured their hearts. Stranger Care is an unflinching look at the complications of our foster care system, the lack of staff and resources to care for these children, and the uneasy compromises that biological and foster parents make as they try to do what is best for a child they love. 

Stranger Care
A Memoir of Loving What Isn't Ours
By Sarah Sentilles 
Random House May 2021
400 pages
Read via Netgalley 

Lisa Donovan went from waiting tables in a small-town Italian restaurant to working as a pastry chef with some of the most influential American chefs. Her journey there was not an easy one--she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, leaves an abusive boyfriend, and works in kitchens that won't pay her fairly and would rather not have women there at all. Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger is the story of Donovan's realization that professional kitchens are often toxic and unsustainable, and her decision to strike out on her own and find a way to be recognized (and make a living) making good food with good people. 

Donovan is a particular kind of narrator--she's angry and belligerent. And she should be; she has faced incredible challenges in her professional and personal life. Perhaps because the experiences were so difficult, Donovan jumps all over the timeline and often spends more time ruminating about her trauma and pulling herself up to the next thing than actually remembering her time baking. This book is a little bit baking memoir, a lot of angry feminist realization, and a whole lot of working hard until you find a place that feels like yours. 

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger
By Lisa Donovan
Penguin Press August 2020
304 pages
Read via Netgalley


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