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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Charlotte van Katwijk guards herself like a secret. Kids are cruel, and she knows if they find out she’s adopted, she’ll be a bully’s easy target.

When they are fourteen, Charlotte’s best friend’s mom commits suicide. It triggers in Charlotte a sense of urgency to find her birth mother before it’s too late, and the answers to her burning questions are taken to the grave.

ebook, 157 pages
Published May 31st 2016
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  38 ratings  ·  16 reviews

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Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As an adoptive mother, this was not an easy read for me. I cried and was quite tearful throughout the book. It’s highly emotional and really gives you a front row seat to one woman’s struggle to find her identity, her sense of self, among the secrecy and bureaucracy of closed adoptions in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
I give this book a solid 5 star rating as it was hugely insightful for me as an adoptive mother! And I’d encourage anyone who is involved in adoption in anyway, or forms part of the adopt
Lu (Sugar & Snark)
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-review
Charlotte was put up for adoption as a baby and then subsequently adopted. Her family has always been open about this fact, but Charlotte still feels alone – still feels out of place in her own family – like a big part of her is missing. Who are her birth parents? Why did they give her up? Who is she supposed to be and how would her life have been different if she wasn’t adopted? These are a lot of questions and feelings for any teenager to deal with. No wonder Charlotte acts out. This novel fol ...more
Satine Lamaštu
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely one of those 'Everything else can wait until I'm done with this book' moments.

Being an avid follower and supporter of Paula through following the process of this amazing life-project, I am so proud and excited to suggest Umbilicus to everybody, regardless of being involved in any form of; the adoption process, friends with, curious about, or simply wanting to experience first hand the trials, tribulations and positive experiences an adoptee experiences.

I myself, have grew up
Tania Kliphuis
Part-conversation, part-wish list, this insight into a young adult adoptee's experience is a quick and informative read. ...more
Karen Cockerill
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adoption
The beginning of this book was difficult to read - not in terms of the language more the content especially if you are considering or have adopted. I loved reading the different perspectives within the journey of adoption. Full circle journey which makes it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in or dealing with adoption. There is surprisingly little written in this area.
Sandra  Valente
The subject matter is a serious one, and I did enjoy reading Umbilicus. However, I'm not quite sure how to voice what I want to say, but I was expecting more, wanted more, wanted to feel...more. At certain instances, I simply felt short-changed. Certain scenes could have been further developed, fleshed out, given me more of that gut-wrenching angst Charlotte must surely have been feeling. I felt like she didn't want to share too much of her pain, which kind of frustrated me. Overall, it was a go ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Umbilicus is an autobiographical novel by South African author Paula Gruben. Following Charlotte, the reader is taken on the journey she endures in discovering who she really is, and the impact that meeting her biological parents has on her life.

I picked up Umbilicus and started reading it on 4 August but ended up putting it down at the end of Chapter one, only to return to it a month later and finishing it in one day. I am glad I waited until I felt ‘ready’ to read it – having a half-sister wh
Wεทchy ¸.¸. ҉¨
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The character, Charlotte and I are roughly the same age. I could identify with the person, the culture, the language and what living in South Africa was like as a teenager growing up during the time period the book is written in.

Many of us question who we are, what we are about, what are our details? .. and what am I going to be when I grow up? Charlotte is no different, except that Charlotte knows she is adopted and therefore has some extra questions that need answers.

I found Charlotte to be a
Raymond Strodl
Mother's and daughter

This was a very interesting read which takes you on a young girls journey of discovery that is personal, emotional and very intimate.

I loved the honesty and truth in this authors story which gives an insight into the world of the adopted child that was completely new for me. While I know this story is biographical and based on real people her characters were well rounded and popped into life as real, living and breathing people who were never two dimensional of over romantic
Phillipa Mitchell
What a beautiful, beautiful book. What a heart wrenching journey to have traveled. Not once in my (rather long) life have I ever sat down and contemplated what it must feel like - as an adopted child - to not know where you came from, and to not know where you're going - as Paula did - until she found herself when she found her biological parents.

The letters from her adoptive and biological parents were my favourite things. The letter she wrote to her son at the end is simply wonderful. One day
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: south-african
I share a group of friends in common with Paula and thru that discovered her blog. And it's there that I avidly followed the story of her story turning into a book. So when it was finally available I grabbed myself a copy and put the book I was reading on hold.

I raced thru this book, I reckon if I'd had the time I could've easily gone cover to cover in one sitting! It's a fascinating, heart-wrenching, uplifting story that is easy to read. It certainly tugged on my new" mom" (she's 14months, but
Gari M.
Umbilicus is the account of a young woman's road to an understanding of the where, what and how she came to be fostered and grew up as an adoptee. Gruben's factual cutting honesty in her account of a trying and testing time, complexing coming of age with a balanced understanding of what it is that fortifies or strips the measure of being each of us attempts to juggle, gives the reader a true insight into the challenges faced by people born into such circumstances. ...more
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
A very informative and poignant memoir about adoption. I'm not a big fan of the writing style, but it was a really easy read and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a tear in my eye. ...more
Monique Snyman
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
Umbilicus by Paula Gruben is a heartfelt (true) tale of a girl who is trying to find her birth parents during a time when it's almost impossible to find out anything after an adoption's been finalised. And while this is going on, Charlotte is trying to figure out who she is, where she fits into, what her future holds. Set in South Africa during the Apartheid Era, the reader is transported to an ugly time and place for everyone remotely different. But Charlotte is strong, determined, and she won' ...more
Gigliola Conte-Patel
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abigail W
Feb 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very unreadable book. I don't recommend it nor do I think it adds much to adoption literature. I must admit I couldn't finish it, and I leafed through it hoping to find sections that would capture my heart. I was not successful. ...more
Sandra Van Zyl
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Paula Gruben is a professional writer, born and bred in South Africa, now based in Ireland.

She was put up for adoption as a newborn in 1974, under the highly secretive closed adoption system, which was common practice for young, unwed mothers at the time.

Paula had a happy, carefree childhood, but knowing virtually nothing about her biological roots resulted in a crippling identity crisis during he

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