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The Risk of Us

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  413 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Nearly half a million children are in foster care. Most placements fail. Will seven-year-old Maresa's?

"It starts with a face in a binder. CHILDREN AVAILABLE, reads the cover." So begins Rachel Howard's intimate and heartbreaking novel about a couple hoping to adopt a child from foster care, then struggling to make it as a family. Seven-year-old Maresa arrives with an indo
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  413 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Angela M
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is not an easy book to read, yet I couldn’t put it down. It’s a short book that manages to cover complex emotions as well as the complexity of the foster care system. The story is narrated by a woman whose name we never learn and she addresses her husband, Sebastian and the troubled child, Maresa who they decide to foster with hopes of adopting. “It starts with a face in a binder. CHILDREN AVAILABLE, reads the cover. the recruitment brochure for this foster services agency says they need fa ...more
The Risk of Us is an emotional, compelling and heartbreaking story. I found this to be a difficult book to read because of the subject matter and yet I couldn’t put it down.

Sebastian and his wife (who we never discover her name) have made the decision to go through the fostering system which will hopefully lead them to eventually adopt a child of their own. Having researched and attended a few meetings they believe they are more than ready to begin the process. When they meet seven year old Mar
ʚϊɞ Shelley's ʚϊɞ Book Nook
Oh my gosh...All the stars. This is a heartbreaking tearful adventure into the frightful world of fostering to adoption. Yes it is excruciatingly sad but whether or not you enjoyed the characters portrayed in this story or even the story itself; it all pales in reality to the truth and children are the most innocent of beings.

I love that this book is fiction and reality blended. The author has accomplished both beautifully by underlining fine nuances of the psyche and emotions that run through i
Helena Echlin
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a couple’s struggle to fall in love with a child, told with lyrical precision and a complete absence of sentimentality. The unnamed narrator is a woman in her forties, a writer and teacher who comes to parenting relatively late and chooses to foster a child with a view to adoption. No surprise, her foster child is troubled and has been abused. Six-year-old Maresa is enchanting: a physically daring, rambunctious kid who likes to sing in her "opera voice" and has a generous he ...more
Cathy Branciforte
I was drawn to the subject matter of this book and was looking forward to reading it. I am glad that it was a short book because I am not sure I would've finished it if it were much longer, except that I wanted to know how it ended. The writing style was distracting and felt very detached and skipped all over the place to me. It took a few pages to figure out who the narrator was- it kept going back and forth between “I say” and “You say” and I never really grew attached to anyone in the story, ...more
Felicia Grossman
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
THE RISK of us is an incredible book about parenting, adoptions, relationships, and the judgments and expectations society puts on everyone without any easy answers. The way the protagonist, the mother, navigated a world where there are no hard truths and even the expects weren't always right was so well done. You are with her for every moment of her difficult journey--all the doubts and baggage and hope and love and effort--you feel all of it.

The way the book gives no one, no matter how meaning
Havebooks Willread
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adoption, fiction
Real. Raw.
Those are the first two words that come to mind. A uniquely but beautifully written story of a couple fostering a little girl with the intention of adopting her.

It's billed as fiction, but the narrator sure has a lot of similarities to the author--both have penned a memoir about their father's murder, both are married with a daughter through the foster system, similar faith system, residence--and it rings true. "She knows of which she speaks."

I enjoyed the unique writing style--the wa
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
***Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a complimentary copy of THE RISK OF US by Rachel Howard in exchange for my honest review.***


When Sebastian and his wife (who narrates and whose name we never learn) decide to adopt seven-year-old Maresa, they think the books they’ve read and classes they’ve taken have prepared them for the challenge. Maresa is more disturbed and her behavior more difficult than they could have imagined. Now, as adoption day draws nearer, they reconsider the commit
Ryan Monson
May 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is an engaging story with an ending I wasn't a fan of and a writing style I find to be an utter disaster. If I broke it all down, I would have given the story a four, but the writing style was bringing my overall score down to a three, then the ending seemed underwhelming both because of its abruptness (character motivations seemed to jump too fast toward the end to get to the ending) and...possible mild spoilers until the end of this neatly everything wrapped up. The author ...more
Kelly (Simply Kelina) C.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it

I was not expecting much going into this story. I am a social worker and I am pretty critical when it comes to stories around Foster Care and the Foster Care system. This is not an easy read, but I do think it is an important read.

This is a real and raw look into adoption and fostering children who have been effected by trauma. The author compares trauma and PTSD between a child in foster care and a soldier. It is a really eye opening statement. I can see why others will not like this, as it is
Carole Stivers
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was difficult for me at first - the terse words, their arrangement in short, stark groupings that often shifted in time and place. But then patterns emerged that for me had the power to elicit memories of my own family and childhood, all the good and terrible things borne out of love. The characters, nameless at first, revealed themselves - all their flaws, their foibles, their gifts on full display. Even the most minor characters - the blonde bimple therapist, the grey-crowned social ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
The narrator and her husband Sebastian in their 40s/50s feel compelled to pursue adoption... and its really really hard with spots of hope. What I liked about this was how raw it was in terms of what the foster parents were going through and I didn't know till the very end whether this new family would make it or would it end in tragedy or some combination. Unlike a lot of books with abused foster children, this one focuses a lot more on the emotional roller coaster the parents experienced and t ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, fiction, 2019
This book isn’t very long, but I took my sweet time reading it because I was so nervous it would have a touch of A Little Life and go into great horrifying detail of past child abuse. Thankfully, it does not and the book is better for it. Grappling with questions about if and how and when and how much to expand a family is something many readers can deeply relate to, and that struggle was always at the center of the story.
Lisa November
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderfully raw and emotionally moving account of what it is like to be a foster mother to a girl who has experienced abuse early in life. This young girl reminds me of so many students I worked with at the psych hospital- emotionally unstable and yearning for reconnecting with the birth mother. It is a brave look at an often ignored population. Well done.
Giovanna Forsyth
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book, while fiction, both makes you want to consider adoption or fostering and simultaneously makes you shudder at the idea of adoption or fostering. That's just how well it's written. It captures the emotions and nuance of a difficult choice. ...more
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Finally, a book that gives a realistic, and hopeful, view of foster care and adoption and what it is like to attach for both the parents and traumatized child.
Kathie Giorgio
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't believe it's saying it too strongly to say this was the best book I've read in a while. It was one of those that I made me want to clear my schedule and just sit and read, read, read.

First and foremost, the writing is lovely in this book. There will be some who are put off by its epistolary narration - it is different, and it does set a different tone. But I found it unique and almost voyeuristic - I was seeing this woman's feelings and experiences as she struggled with what to say to th
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was initially drawn to this story because I truly have a heart for adoption/fostering. I've been waiting to read it for months after it first came out, until my library finally purchased it. The story itself is heavy stuff. It's not a "feel-good" sort of story, but it's authentic and true. It provides a true glimpse of what so many kids in the foster care system have gone through. The brokenness and utter human depravity many (most) of these these children experience before entering the system ...more
Suchi Govindarajan
This book's cover is astonishingly apt for the story. It is a night full of stars and we can see that girl on the swing is in motion, and yet, we don't know if she will swing further forward or higher. Maybe, in the next second, she will just be drawn backwards by the momentum?

The Risk of Us shifts similarly between the tenderness and trauma of adopting a child. Both the mother and the child carry memories of violence, and that makes them both turn away and towards each other. We don't know the
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a couple’s struggle to adopt a foster child. It comes as no surprise that the child the narrator and her husband Sebastian choose to foster is a troubled child, Marisa. Having worked with such damaged children I fully understand the difficulties in handling such a child. There is no sentimentality here, just hard truths. The couple falls in love with the Maresa because she has a huge voice (her “opera voice”) and is an excellent artist, giving them—and her—some commonalities ...more
Kathleen Gray
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Stunning. Reserve judgement going into this at times difficult novel of a woman and her husband Seb who foster to adopt Maresa, a deeply damaged child. Written in some ways as a letter from the unnamed narrator to Maresa, who she refers to as Little One, it details what the couple hoped would be a wonderful experience but what was in fact a challenging, painful, and at times awful one. You can feel the narrator walking on eggshells when things are relatively calm and then kaploeey, they fall apa ...more
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a foster mom currently in the process of adopting six little siblings. I don’t know if because of my situation that the subject matter is very relevant to me, or just because the writing is very compelling and well done, but I couldn’t put The Risk of Us down. So much of it seemed so real and relatable. None of my kids have had anywhere near the behaviors or abuse level the little girl in the story experienced, but there was so much in there that we or people we know have dealt with. I real ...more
Diane McPhail
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rachel Howard’s THE RISK OF US is a difficult, but impossible to put down ,depiction of one couple’s heartrending journey through the challenging decision to adopt a young girl and the labyrinthian system they must negotiate to do so. Adept with language, structure, layering, and pace, Howard takes the reader on a breathtaking ride that never flinches in its authentic rendering of the difficulty of such a process or the challenges of overcoming and healing abuse. At the same time, she holds us i ...more
Constance Hale
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Risk of Us is hard to read—and almost impossible to put down. It relates the tale of three souls, each damaged in a different way and each hoping to heal by making a patched-together family. But, as Tolstoy has noted, the shoals are many when it comes to families. This trio has to deal with the ghosts of birth families, the foster-care system, and a host of therapists, social workers, and other sometimes helpful, sometimes hapless characters. What makes it possible for us to bear the heartac ...more
Rachel Teferet
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was such a beautiful book and touched me deeply. I finished it yesterday, and I found myself thinking about it all day. I found it really uplifting and hopeful that love really can help overcome intense trauma. Just the love the family had for their adopted child was so beautiful. Not to mention that the book is beautifully written as well! Rachel Howard does things stylistically that are subtle yet powerful, from the interesting way she plays with the point of view, to the structure of the ...more
Lisa Dell
Feb 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There is so much tied up in to this short little book. When a young childless couple, decides they are interested in adopting a child, they go through the foster care system. This book takes us through their decision making process of finding, nurturing and loving a child.Their ultimate goal is to make this child a permanent member of their family. This book often reads like a thriller, as all parties discover if this will be Marisas, forever home. This considered auto fiction, in that the autho ...more
Stephanie Jimenez
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book stunned me. Rachel Howard's writing style blew me away; her simple snapshots of family life and its many devastating and blissful moments were entrancing. I read this book carefully for a week, and I was sad once I had reached the end for want of more. The first person narrative feels confessional and almost autobiographical, and despite this being a novel, I kept having the impression of reading the journal entries of a friend--truthful, raw, illuminating. In short, this is really gre ...more
Vanessa Mongeon
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story was captivating, I couldn't put the book #TheRiskofUs down. Although the subject matter was hard at times I kept reading. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, clicking slowly up one minute, racing down another. I found parts of myself in the story, the longing for family. The descriptions of the characters and their identifiers: the NRA sticker, the surfer-dude case worker, really helped me track each character. And when I thought the ride was over- I was sad. But then wait, one mor ...more
Codie Haghighi
Finally have time to sit down and write this review.

The Risk of Us was a gripping novel in my opinion. I really couldn't put this book down and finished it in 2 hours. (Sorry it's taken so long to review it).

Everyone has heard the stories of how some foster kids can be. In this novel we follow this couple fostering a young girl who is cute on the outside but has a terrible temper. They go through the trials and tribulations that come with her adoption process . Some days questioning if they coul
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Parenting is very difficult, often rewarding, but also difficult. Parenting a foster child with an array of emotional and behavioral problems is beyond difficult. This is made abundantly clear in this book. A mature couple decides to bring a 6 year old girl into their home, with the intention of eventually adopting her. The wife feels that she knows what to expect. Though she wasn't a foster child, she had a very hard childhood - abuse by a stepfather and witnessing the murder of her father. The ...more
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Rachel Howard is a writer of fiction, personal essays, memoir, and dance criticism. Her debut novel, The Risk of Us, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt April 2019, and is garnering strong advance praise. Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation, calls it "An emotionally complex and amazingly suspenseful novel about love and fear." Belle Boggs, author of The Art of Waiting, says: "R ...more

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