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Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

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From a story first told in the popular New York Times parenting blog comes a funny, touching memoir about a mother who welcomes more than a new daughter into her home. After two years of waiting to adopt―slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair―a miracle finally happened for Vanessa McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then Vanessa made a highly uncommon when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, Vanessa invited them to stay. Without a blueprint for navigating the practical basics of an open adoption or any discussion of expectations or boundaries, the unusual living arrangement became a bottomless well of conflicting emotions and increasingly difficult decisions complicated by missed opportunities, regret, social chaos, and broken hearts. Written with wit, candor, and compassion, Rock Needs River is, ultimately, Vanessa’s love letter to her daughter, one that illuminates the universal need for connection and the heroine’s journey to find her tribe.

204 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2019

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Vanessa McGrady

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 507 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Hyatt.
184 reviews32 followers
July 1, 2023
This book fails miserably at all the things it claims to be.

It perfectly fits my usual interests -- memoir! adoption! OPEN adoption! I was so excited to see a book that fit my odd little reading niche so nicely, especially for free. I dove into it, hoping it would be my first great read of the year.

It was not.

From the memoir perspective -- it's just not a good book. It's vague and too quick in places it shouldn't be, and long and rambling in others. It reads similarly to a teenage or early college essay, just a lot of information and correct grammar and syntax but no overarching point or skill to craft the narrative. The author basically shares the minutia of her personal life, including a boring and long list of ex-lovers (though unfortunately without the catchy melodies of Taylor Swift).

It's an odd reading experience because while nothing really happens, it moves very quickly, skimming along on the surface without giving much chance for reflection. I felt like I could never really settle in and get to know the characters and the author in a way that would make me want to see what happened next. It was just reading the telling, telling, telling of a series of too-loosely connected events in the life of complete stranger.

It didn't really cut it as a memoir. And that's without the adoption piece added.

Add the adoption piece and... oh my. Here it becomes more of a dumpster fire. The author sort of describes the adoption process but not really -- the whole thing falls victim to the same badly-written and poorly-paced "memoir" of her previous lovers. We kind of hear about the training process, but not much. She makes some general, surface-level explanatory statements about adoption that are the equivalent of an adoption agency brochure or an awkward group presentation on "What is Adoption?" in a 100-level college course. She spends a stunningly narcissistic and self-indulgent amount of time on an internet argument, where she got (rightfully) attacked for asking to adopt someone's baby. And so it goes. (I'm 2/2 on Taylor Swift references in this review and that has been the best thing to come out of reading this book).

The whole book strikes a tone that is somehow even beyond the typical adoptive-parent-centric, adopter-as-savior tone -- it becomes one where literally everyone surrounding the author is treated only as a prop. No other characters are ever developed as actual people, and I would say they're only used to further the narrative, except there isn't even much narrative. The depth and detail given for most events in this book is of the sort that would maybe be appropriate for an 800-word essay, and even then it feels off somehow. It's not enough, and it's also not the right quality of detail.

It's not a very good book, from a reading perspective, and from an adoption perspective it's at best useless (adopting a kid doesn't mean you have an interesting story or one that needs told, please can people realize this) and at worst harmful (the author's attitude towards her kids' biological family is dismissive and self-centered, it's yet another adoptive parent story, the ethics of private infant adoption are never considered, and so on).

So much for my first read of the year being a lovely adoption memoir. Back to my weird British mysteries and ghosts.

Worth mentioning -- if you are looking for an open adoption memoir, God and Jetfire was, in my opinion, a lovely one. I don't get any compensation for saying that. I just really liked that book, found the writing to be beautiful, and I thought it was very humanizing of all parties.
December 20, 2020
Overall, this wasn't a terrible read, but it really wasn't very good, either. I must begin by saying, that any person that adopts a child, I have admiration for, as it is never a process that is done lightly. It is usually lengthy, difficult and sometimes, can be pretty emotional for all people involved. This book is about an open adoption, where eventually, the adoptive parent allows the birth parents to move in and live in her home.

Unfortunately, the actual adoption doesn't occur until around six chapters in, and during those five chapters, the author tells us about her city travelling and her sexual partners, and why her past relationships failed. Did we really need to know all of that? I have no issues with some background information on a person, but this went on far too long, to the point of boredom, and, it added absolutely nothing to the story. Later on in the book, when McGrady takes in the birth parents, it's quite obvious that she has caring qualities, and some parts were interesting, but there wasn't enough relevant information to build on, and in turn, relate to the story.

There were parts I liked, but, for a book about adoption, this was a disappointment, and I've read so much better. I'm just relieved that I didn't pay a penny for this book.
Profile Image for Marie.
46 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2019
I'm disappointed that this was my first completed read of the year! I am glad that it was a free read via Amazon's Kindle First program because I cannot imagine wanting to spend money on this fluff piece.

The book blurb suggests a "funny" and "witty" story of a mother's 2 year wait to adopt and then the surprise twist of taking her baby's birth parents into her home when they end up homeless. It takes FIVE CHAPTERS to actually get to the "adoption" part of the story--those five chapters are an absolutely boring, self-absorbed account of the author's life wandering from city to city and a weirdly specific list of ex-boyfriends, their names, a short recount of her relationship with each man, and a final explanation on why the relationship didn't last. Background details of the author for a memoir is fine, but this part meandered for way too long and didn't actually add anything to the story. Talking about her shaky relationship with her parents and how that affected her own parenting years later is relevant and I wish she'd spent more time on that instead of on her former random relationships.

After she takes her baby's birth parents into her house we see she is compassionate, I think she really is, but she basically throws job applications and money at the young couple and can't figure out why "nothing ever comes of it." Clearly there's something more going on in the lives of this young couple that is keeping them from truly getting the help they need but unfortunately there's never really any explanation of what it could be. Frustratingly, towards the end of the book the author sits down for an interview with the couple after they've moved to another state and she spends a paragraph talking about how they revealed feeling totally sidelined in the adoption and were treated badly by the adoption agency, hospital workers, and other people involved. And that's it! Just a paragraph! Here is where I feel like we could have gotten more into the lives of these birth parents and maybe explored bias in the system and laws or procedures that favor either birth or adoptive parents and shed more light on the issues the birth parents dealt with and how that may have affected their trust in all charitable agencies years later, but no.

The actual story part of this memoir would have been better as a magazine article or essay. There is so much rambling, irrelevant information in this book that really feels like it's there just to bring it up to the right page count to be published as a book. I wouldn't read it again.
Profile Image for Julie Robichaux.
6 reviews3 followers
January 10, 2019
Oh, man, the author was so close to getting it...and just never did. I was aching for her to develop some sort of insight — any sort of insight! — into why she felt and behaved as she did towards her daughter's bio-parents.

Instead, over and over again, I read confused complaints about how they disappointed her — and very little acknowledgement that her expectations may have been unfair. Very little awareness that it was presumptuous to impose her own standards on them, and that her position of comparative privilege warranted real delicacy. Very little in the way of what felt like authentic empathy. And very little growth, as far as I could track.

Although plenty of readers felt the author was generous in that she let Bill and Bridgett stay at her home when they were homeless, my overall takeaway was that she didn't have the kind of generosity that means the most: generosity of spirit.

For these reasons, I found the entire story off-putting, even without taking into account the style of the telling: more bloggy than booklike. That's not bad in itself, but a different approach might have made the narcissism go down a little more easily.
Profile Image for Heather Macaulay-ditaranto.
22 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2019
Entertaining at first but quickly turned into a narcissistic account of one woman's (the author, perhaps?) Sexual encounters, work history and selfish desire to have a baby when obviously she wasn't meant to be a mother.

I was disappointed that this story appeared to be the memoirs of a self applauding wannabe. No real depth to this book.
Profile Image for Goth Gone Grey.
1,066 reviews47 followers
January 6, 2019
More about the author than the adoption - very self-absorbed

I wish more of the book had the upbeat, optimistic style of this example:

"My parents taught me how to create a tribe. Some of my blood-related family is in my tribe, to be sure, but most of its members I’ve picked up along the way, starting when I was four with my best friend, Lisa, who lived downstairs and who is closer to me today than any blood sister could be. My tribe is hilarious and loyal and helpful and made up of fragile souls and supersonic minds and great, big, fat beating hearts, and I wouldn’t be who I am without them. My parents taught me how to find and keep people. And maybe, maybe, I could be a mom and bring everything I knew to a little soul, and we could love each other in a way only a mother and daughter could. Or should."

Alas, it's not to be. The writing style is conversational, but in that uncomfortable, "let me tell you all my tales of woe" way that makes you mentally check out before you can physically escape from the person. She writes of her failed relationships, longing for a child, and the adoption from a self-centered, ugly to read perspective.

There's an overriding, uncomfortable theme that the author knows best, and those around her can't do things right. While this is sometimes accurate - impaired driving is an obvious poor choice - more often than not it comes across as judgemental and rude. Not all of the thoughts about each situation need to be shared for it to still remain an honest memoir.

Her perspective on her daughter's birth parents is difficult to read. She's insultingly surprised when their temporary home is spotless, and assumes he's lying about his other daughter. Their perspective on the experience is not truly offered here - even when she says she visited them to hear it - as she ran away from them when they told her what happened, and focused on how hearing it hurt her more than what it did to them.

Profile Image for Charlee.
348 reviews19 followers
January 10, 2019
This was one of my Amazon First Reads picks for the month of January.

"From a story first told on the popular New York Times parenting blog comes a funny, touching memoir about a mother who welcomes more than a new daughter into her home"

Oh, how misleading this little blurb is! Why? Because there isn't much funny or touching about this book. To be honest, it isn't even really a book about an open adoption since the author barely touches on the actual process and doesn't seem to have any understanding of how to handle it. There's no real explanations, insight or advice. Where there should have been array of information, she just kind of skimmed over everything. However, she does go on and on about her sexual exploits and failed relationships in much more thorough detail so if you're interested in any of that then this is the story for you. Honestly, this book failed on so many levels that it would be difficult to name them all so instead I'll tell you all the things I did like about it.
I got nothing.
Profile Image for Erin.
656 reviews
January 4, 2019
I came across this book as a free download from Amazon Prime. I almost bailed just 20 pages in (mostly due to swearing) but decided to stick with it because it was describing a life and circumstances foreign to my own life and circumstances. While somewhat interesting, I found the writing and pacing weak. The author tries to be open and vulnerable, but her self analysis more often swings towards justification and rationalization than true awareness. Some of her life mottos are completely different from the type of motto I’d want in my own life.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,853 followers
December 30, 2018
This is the story of a woman growing into her heart. With cozy candor that invites the reader to pour a tall glass of malbec, kick off her shoes and curl into the sofa, Vanessa McGrady shares her journey of choice and circumstance to becoming a mother.

One summer day, I was lolling around in the bath, and, inexplicably, with no apparent trigger, I wanted a baby. I was nearing thirty. I felt an allover tug in my body, a missing of someone I didn't know. Every single cell in me ached. The tears started dripping down my face, slipping into the bathwater

More than a decade passes, years that see McGrady pregnant, then not, her body discarding the new lives forming inside of her with wanton disregard for her keening desire. Her relationships and romances are ancillary; these men fall short in large and small ways. What remains is the certainty that her +1 is meant to be a son or daughter.

Then in her early forties, McGrady settles into love. She marries Peter and together they pursue open adoption. Two years into the process, A call from Linda, the social worker, came in. After two years of filling out paperwork, chasing wispy, insignificant leads, wondering if every single call I ever got would be the call, there it was.

McGrady meets Bridgett, twenty-eight, and Bill, thirty-eight, struggling musicians devoted to each other, but realistic about their inability to responsibly parent a child. They lived itinerant lives, underemployed, without a stable home. A baby did not fit into their dreams of making it as musicians. Red flags wave wildly when Bill contacts Vanessa after their first meeting, demanding she make an immediate decision. Bridgett is nearly due, the couple are facing eviction, previous potential parents have fallen out of favor for their unwillingness to cooperate. It feels ominous and fraught, but McGrady takes her chances.

Days later, Bridgett goes into early labor. McGrady, who had been out of town on a work trip, arrives after the birth. Bridgett, Bill, and Peter are there to greet her. Peter hands her the baby, who Bridgett and Bill have named Kelli Mae. The baby girl who would soon become Grace McGrady. I held her in my arms, looking deep into her squishy, sweet face. I gently rocker her, and it felt like a dance. I realized only at that moment, I'd had little to no experience with a newborn. It just felt right. Normal, no reason for tears. Only a very calm, solid kind of joy. My new normal. Me and this kid.

If only it were that simple. Before Grace's third birthday, Peter has moved out and Bill and Bridgett have moved in. McGrady's dream of becoming a mama has come true. But now she is obliged to captain a boat through waters for which there is no helpful map to be found in a search on Amazon.com In reaching out a compassionate hand to support her child's homeless biological parents, she may be putting at risk the mental health of the life she has moved heaven and earth to save.

The memoirist faces a dual, often conflicting challenge: to make the personal universal, and to make the universal interesting. Thwarted attempts at motherhood, from miscarriage to still birth to unsuccessful adoption, are grist for the personal essay mill (full disclosure: I've published several). We're invited into the author's pain, cringing through the raw moments that we can't imagine sharing with our colleagues, our family, perhaps even our partners, much less with a host of strangers. And yet we can't look away, because we measure ourselves against the writer, in awe of the vulnerability and truths shared, astonished that someone is able to articulate our particular pain, releasing us from our emotional isolation. That's what great memoir does — even if the events and circumstances are unique to the writer, the "a-ha" moments conveyed become part of a shared experience of the heart.

Vanessa McGrady has crafted such a memoir, great in its ability to hold the reader rapt to the page, wondering how the author will hold all of this together and where she, and Grace, will be by the end. Written with compassion and humor, Rock Needs River simply flows with love.

My gratitude to the author and her publisher for providing me with an Advance Reader Copy.
Profile Image for Melodie.
589 reviews66 followers
November 6, 2019
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it gives an decent account of the long and expensive adoption process. Adoption is not for the faint of heart. The process is grueling, invasive and exorbitantly expensive. I personally liken it to legalized selling of children. When there are so many children in this country alone in need of loving parents, I find the cost appalling. And the author shines a little light there.
Unconventional open adoption is the road less traveled and the one the author chooses. While decrying the marginalizing of birth parents, the author does just that with her daughter's birth parents. She makes most of the book all about her, painting herself a rosy martyr and the birth parents a dull needy gray.
Over all the writing just wasn't very good. The author had a chance to really inform and educate while telling her story. Sadly, in my opinion, that didn't happen.
14 reviews
January 9, 2019
Not my favorite read

The author paints herself in a virtuous tone, but instead presents herself as needy and victimized. I was disappointed. Pass on this depressing, self-congratulatory mess of a book.
Profile Image for David Groves.
Author 2 books6 followers
February 22, 2019
What a free, easy, loving skate of a read this is! I mean this only in the best way, as in the way that the classic memoir Wild reads. I could read this memoir in bed in the morning, put it down, and whenever I passed it during the day, it would be calling to me. I would pick it up and read a few pages and realize it had been living inside me even when I wasn’t reading it. It’s just that kind of book.
This is the story of an open adoption, of course, but it’s also the story of what happens when you invite homeless people into your life. I think a good subtitle for this book might be, alternatively, A Memoir About a Perilous Adoption, because really, this adoption hangs over a cliff ready to be pushed off, and that cliff is named Bill and Bridgett, the aforementioned homeless birth parents. The conventional way to become an adoptive parent, of course, is to block the birth parents out of your life completely, like a wartime censor with a Magic Marker. But author Vanessa McGrady was too honest and full of hope to blot things out. She was one of those brave types, inviting the birth parents into the process. And that is what makes this narrative riveting.
McGrady’s predicament, if that’s what it was, had understandable origins. When she took the child, the birth parents were trying to make it as rockers and living in the cheapest SRO in downtown Los Angeles. A couple years on, she invites them over for Thanksgiving, and after dinner, she looks out at the dark, cold night and shivers.
“Do you guys want to just stay over?” she says.
They take a 45-minute shower together, as homeless people might. The next week, it starts pounding rain, and McGrady invites them to stay until the rain lets up. And a secret thought occurs to McGrady:
Jesus, what have I done?
Does a miracle happen, or do they disappoint her? McGrady is so naked in the way that she describes her faults, her missteps, her insecurities, that you want to read on and on.
“I’m not a perpetual do-gooder,” McGrady writes. “An uncomfortable proportion of my thoughts are impure and judgmental. When I was a kid, my UNICEF Halloween change found its way only to the closest candy store, never as far as the starving African children for which it was intended….”
While reading this book, I recognized this woman. I know women like this. I like women like this better than I like censors and heart misers. McGrady’s predicament stemmed from a surfeit of both ideals and love, and I can’t bring myself to blame her for any of that. Readers with small minds might call her naïve, but here’s a woman who is brave enough to want both, strive for both, work for both, and that impulse lifts the heart. Her ideals told her that she couldn’t just shut the birth parents out. What would she tell her daughter years later? How could she justify her cold, cold heart? So she invited them in. Suddenly, McGrady had a homeless couple living under her roof.
McGrady’s ideals told her, furthermore, that she had to offer more than just shelter. Don’t just give somebody a fish; teach them how to fish. So she offered Bill and Bridget advice on how to get off the street, for example, plus phone numbers to social-service agencies and such. And when you help a homeless person, can they be saved?
This memoir is mostly about bravery and love. It’s about how love manifests itself. The choices she made were all out of love. How do you have an open adoption with homeless loser parents (my phrase, not hers)? How do you refrain from saying bad things about them to their natural child? (Seen from another viewpoint, though, how could you say bad things about them to their natural child?) Even more alarmingly, how do you raise a child so as not to turn out like their loser homeless parents?
Perhaps the most stunning thing about this book, though, is how naked McGrady allows herself to be to the reader. When she’s young, it’s all those things she did that ended badly. The dumb actor boyfriend who cheats on her. The relationship in her thirties in which “we had become each other’s leftovers.” One chapter is titled, “When You Know Where You Want to Go But Can’t Figure Out How to Get There,” which is pretty humble. I know people like this. She was a conceptual artist, as evidenced by her critically acclaimed body-image multimedia productions, busy mining her soul for art. She was a searcher, spending several years in her thirties living out in the woods in a cabin on five acres, taking showers from an oversized kettle on a rusty iron stove. Every decision she made reeks of trying to do the right thing—well, almost every decision.
Once she becomes a Mom, she’s just as naked about that experience. She meets the man of her dreams, and even though she would divorce him three years later, she’s brave enough to describe their romance in glowing terms, the way the stars shone in her eyes at the time. And when she realizes he’s an alcoholic, she’s honest enough to kick herself for not seeing it earlier. And when she divorces him, the safety of her beloved child Grace is a large part of the decision.
Of course, nakedness comes in a variety of forms. There’s one particularly entertaining scene when, early in the adoptive family story, she, her husband Peter, and her daughter Grace have all caught a bug and are puking and pooping uncontrollably at the same time in only one bathroom, and like a game of Musical Chairs, she turns out to be the odd one out. Her solution is the most hilarious thing you’ll read this year.
Don’t worry, though. There’s very little poop in this memoir. She uses the word motherfucker only once. Mostly, it’s the story of an honest and yearning woman who has walked a brave path. It’s a modern story, and a charming one.
Profile Image for Cathy.
913 reviews5 followers
February 19, 2019
4.5 Stars

I don't know what I was expecting from this book about an open adoption, I think I was just being nosey and wanted to see how everyone reacted.

I don't think this is exactly what was promised in the blurb, but I really enjoyed it. It left me thinking about everyone involved in an open adoption, their back stories etc. I think its clear that this is a biased portrayal of the situation as it is written from the point of view of the adoptive mother, and her interpretations of how everyone feels/behaves and the other parents have their negative qualities put out there whilst she can hide her own. At times this can be uncomfortable but it made me think.
Profile Image for Kimberley Gorelik.
Author 1 book19 followers
September 18, 2018
Vanessa’s story is exceptional but it’s her writing that pulls you in close and keeps you there. I opened the book expecting to read a few pages to see what I was getting into and closed it three hours later on the last page.
Profile Image for Pattie O'Donnell.
317 reviews29 followers
January 18, 2019
I got this as a free Amazon download, and, as the product of a closed adoption, I was eager to learn about the author's experience with open adoption.

The story about her journey to obtain a child was somewhat interesting. And it rightly portrays infant adoption exactly as it is – as the last chance of obtaining a child in order to fulfill the need of the woman who has tried every other way to have a baby.

The author emerges as a person who blames people for disappointing her even they are clear up front about exactly who they are. She makes bad choices in partners, and then blames the men for being exactly who they clearly are. When she finally starts dating her husband, she knows he is still married, but is surprised that his wife does not react well to finding out that he is cheating. She knows her husband is a less-than-ambitious guy saddled with a lot of financial burdens from his past, and yet blames him for not contributing more to the household. She sees right away that the birthparents are lost souls, and yet she blames repeatedly them for not shaping up and either getting jobs or signing up for the VA benefits the birthfather had earned (to her credit, she acknowledges trying to impose her values on them, but even her acknowledgement is subtly shaming). She provides constant little digs about their irresponsibility, along the line of “And as of now, I’m still waiting to receive (whatever thing they may have promised to send her).” Also, why is it necessary to the narrative to point out repeatedly that while she herself is, of course, completely sober, her ex-husband is not. It doesn’t add much, and just feels self-justifying and unnecessarily harsh.

Also frustrating is how much this short memoir is peppered with descriptions of all the times her daughter makes it clear how much she loves her Mama (the author), choosing the author and rejecting those lost souls who gave her birth (especially Bill, who is a “liar” – which is never explained). And the descriptions of how gorgeous, brilliant, insightful and perfect happy her beautiful and delightful little fairy child is get a little irritating, but that could be just the bitterness of a reader whose own adoptive mother found her somewhat less than delightful.

As many other readers have said, it would have been good to hear more from Bill and Bridgett. The author describes how the nurses at the hospital badger and harass them to consider keeping their daughter, and yet they say they felt pressured to relinquish. It would have been fascinating to hear more about that gap in perception.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sharon Jones.
487 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2019
Not one of the best

I did not care for the main character, Vanessa. She seemed self-centered, hard to please and unwilling to make any commitment. She went through men like they were there to please her and if anything went astray in her thinking, they were toast. She allowed herself to do what she wanted in a relationship. I have doubts that she is the "good" mother she makes herself out to be. Not my pick for a steady Mother.
Profile Image for Betsy.
401 reviews1 follower
July 4, 2019
There were some good quotes and good parts- mostly when she describes how much she loves her daughter (which, like, mom book duh). Then there were some frustrating parts- mostly when she would try to convince the reader that her (now public) criticisms of her daughter's biological parents and her ex-husband were justified. All in all, I'm not unhappy I spent the time reading it but will most likely not read it again.
Profile Image for Lakshmi.
Author 10 books29 followers
January 16, 2019
I picked this book because as a parent in an open adoption, I hoped to glean insights on how others do it and how to get better at it. While this is a vulnerable, honest look at what open adoption looks like, it made me sad to see the child's parents history, their weakest moments laid bare for anyone to read. While they will get past this phase in their lives, these words will live on. I feel broken for the child who will one day read this and wonder why this was shared.

I wish the book had emphasized how to work through these issues just from the author's pov without sharing as much of the other characters lives. I also wish at the end, all that interview and the birth parents thoughts were shared as is. It is important for people in the adoption triad to know the good, the bad and the ugly.

In all honesty, I am a parent who shares a lot of my life and that of my children online. I straddle this line between okay and too much every day. This book is an eye-opener for me on how I should navigate this writing journey.

On the plus side, the language is great, the pacing excellent. The author is a good writer and it shows.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
2,078 reviews1,658 followers
January 6, 2019
Amazon Kindle First for January

I picked this as I was hoping for some insight into open adoption of which I have no experience or understanding. If that’s what you are looking for - forget it with this book. It was about 30% in before adoption was even mentioned as it was more memoir of a not especially interesting life as Vanessa went from partner to partner. I felt empathy with her miscarriages as I’ve been there myself and I applaud people who give a loving home to adopted children. However, the remaining 70% was at times a rambling story which covered a number of issues and IMO not enough on the open adoption. I also think it’s way too early to judge what effect Grace’s biological parents have on her as they flit in and out of her life. To describe them as flaky is to do them a favour. Who can say what the impact will be by the time Grace enters the difficult world of teenage years?

I was really disappointed and I feel the blurb is misleading.
Profile Image for Beth Ellor.
5 reviews5 followers
January 25, 2019
A life fully lived

Vanessa McGrady pulls no punches in describing her own life and her transformation into a passionate mother. Because I'm also a late-blooming passionate mother (since 1988) so much of it rings true. She upends the sentimentality that often surrounds adoption to the uninitiated. Her recognition of the adoption triad and respect for the deep unknowns is such a relief, amid so much psychobabble. And her narrative, while familiar in feeling, also demonstrates the totally unpredictable and ungeneralizable (?) truth that no two families, no two adoptions are the same.
I flew through this book in two days, but will return to it - a profound and eminently readable soul baring.
144 reviews14 followers
November 26, 2019
I can always appreciate when an author pours their heart out onto the pages of a book. It is evident in this memoir that McGrady wanted to provide her daughter with background information and clarity on how they came together as mother and daughter. There were very touching moments and messages in this book that were relatable, whether you are a parent or a child. From that perspective, I think the author was successful in doing so.

I think it is helpful to keep in mind that this memoir was written from the author's perspective so the version of events that occurred were solely through her lens. As many of us know, when events occur, there are always going to be different takeaways from each and every situation. The author goes on to describe various scenarios (good and bad) that transpired between herself and her past romantic relationships or her relationship with Bill and Bridget, the biological parents of her adopted daugher, Grace.

In saying this, I would have loved more in-depth information on the open adoption process as I felt that this memoir only scratched the surface. Additionally, the author mentions that Bill and Bridget felt mistreated by the hospital and those who handled the adoption process. I wanted to read more about this to gain a better understanding of Bill and Bridget's overall situation.

Overall, this was a quick read that provided me some insight into adoption and many of the emotions that go along with it.

Thank you to Vanessa McGrady for sharing her story. Also, thank you to Amazon Publishing for a copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Bonnye Reed.
4,225 reviews72 followers
February 21, 2019
GNAB Rock Needs River is an intriguing memoir about Vanessa McGrady's very open adoption of her daughter Grace. And as traumatic as it was, as all 'transplants' are, the honest and very transparent way this adoption went has to be better than secretive way most adoptions in my day were handled. So many questions that adoptees need answers to are literally just facts of life.

It can't have been easy for any of the adults in this memoir to be this frank and open about their feelings concerning the adoption. I am grateful that they were able to share those emotions such a life altering decision would naturally arise. It would be interesting to see something from Grace's perspective as she grows up, but this memoir alone was enough to make me a believer in open adoptions.

I received a free electronic copy of this novel February 7th, 2019 from Netgalley, Vanessa McGrady, and Little A Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.

pub date Feb 1, 2019
Little A Publishers
Profile Image for Joi.
477 reviews28 followers
February 20, 2019
Alright guys this is going to be a lot of ranting, so buckle up! It might be a bumpy ride.

This book was touted as
"Vanessa’s love letter to her daughter, one that illuminates the universal need for connection and the heroine’s journey to find her tribe"
"A touching memoir about a mother who welcomes more than a new daughter into her home"

This ended up being
0-60%: A parade of the author's ex boyfriends, in semi-relation of how the uathor decided she wanted to become a mother.
60-70%: Learning about the adoption system, and adoptiong her daughter. Thsi is where we meet both the daughter, Grace, and Grace's bio parents, Bridgett and Bill.
70-75%: Bridgett and Bill move into Vanessa
80-90%: Reflections on Bridgett and Bill moving in and out of their lives.
90-100%: Vanessa decides to write about the adoption experience. We learn more about Bill and Bridgett, Vanessa has musings, anecdotes, and reflections on adoption.

Eek. This ended up being a garbled mess of a story. The adoption part didn't even start until over halfway through the book, and I wanted so much more out of it. The author and adoptive mother seemed kind-hearted, but in a very face value way. So many passive aggressive anecdotes here and there. She is self-admittedly flawed, but man- I don't think she really "gets it". She is obviously privileged- stating in one sentence "my clunky leather Frye boots finding their footing along the smooth river rocks" essentially bragging about her nice boots- then complaining that Bill sold the stroller that the hospital gave them for $40 on craigslist. (even through they NO LONGER HAD A BABY/ a need for a stroller). So privileged without even realizing it.

Also- she basically judges everyone else, and their stories. She knows the flaws in people, but then gets mad at them when they don't change. She "welcomes" Bill and Bridgett in, but then gets mad at them when they don't appreciate or change to her lifestyle choices. One thing that really upset me is that she stated as a fact that "Open adoption is better, anyway, for the mental health of all involved.". Yes, there has been research done that open adoption can be helpful for the parties involved- but to call yourself "better" because you did it? No. That is not ok.

To give the author credit, she is obviously well researched, educated, and has some insightful bits. The ending reflections I felt was the best part, and there were some nuggets of actual vulnerability here and there- but for the most part: this was a superficial storytelling of self-justification.
Profile Image for SusanS.
238 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2019
Not a fan

Rather than being a real story about open adoption, this was more the progressive feminist diatribe of a narcissist. All relationships revolved around the author and her point of view. I found it disturbing.
Profile Image for Meredith Reads.
229 reviews
February 6, 2019
This book was a disappointment. I thought the book would be...well...different. The book felt like the author was trying to convince the world she was a good person (she donated $50 to the food pantry after all) and there were many discrepancies in her story. First she says her parents taught her the value of holding onto people then she says they taught her the value of not needing others and being independent. She claims to be barely able to make the rent yet has a high profile job, wears Michael Kors shoes, and has traveled the world.

Much about this book seems to be superficial. I know nothing more about open adoption than I did before reading it. I feel nothing for the characters except a low level frustration. Overall, it was just a 'meh' book.

Okay, the good things are that it was short and easy to read.
7 reviews
February 23, 2021
I was very eager to read this memoir but came away from it with very mixed feelings. It felt raw and honest at times, and far too one-sided at others. As I read I hoped to learn more about Grace's birth parents, and who they really are as people, and what had been withheld about them, either by the birth parents themselves or by the author. Moreover, there were mentions here and there of the adoption agency's treatment of the birth parents, and of their intense anger about this treatment, but the details were never revealed and I found myself alternating between concern and incredulity--what happened, exactly, to make them so bitter about their adoption experience, and how, and why? It was frustrating that the author raised this issue but never addressed it in any meaningful way. I also felt concerned by the author's characterization of her ex-husband and his family, and found myself wishing they were more fleshed out, and in a way that felt fair. I would've liked to see some of these gaps filled in a bit, and the questions raised by the text itself answered. I appreciate that this is her story, from her perspective, but I also don't know that it paints a fair picture of open adoption and encourage other readers to seek out other accounts, in the interest of balance.
264 reviews
September 1, 2020
McGrady does a lovely and very honest-feeling job of looking at adoption from various perspectives. I haven't read a lot about adoption and have no personal experience, so I'm winging it here, but it seems extraordinary to me that McGrady took her adopted daughter's birth parents into her home when they were experiencing homelessness. These are not her biological family members; that probably happens fairly often.

She did so partly in gratitude and partly because she figured why give only to charity when I could be helping the people right in front of me with whom I have a personal connection? I admire her guts.

Often book titles seem to me to be vague and entirely unmemorable. This title, Rock Needs River, is perfect. I leave it to the reader to encounter why.
January 24, 2019

I was adopted as a 4 month old baby in a closed adoption but through God's infinite Grace a LOVELY woman reunited my family with me and I was able to spend 25 years of lost time with my birth mom before she passed away in 2018. Open adoptions allow those who are adopted to be completely whole...not that we love our God given families any less...but for many of us there are missing pieces. Thank you Vanessa McGrath for this amazing story of inclusion for all involved!
Profile Image for Kristen Howell.
308 reviews6 followers
January 31, 2019
3.5 Stars
I didn’t seek out this book. I got it free from Amazon and read it because one of my goals is to read more non-fiction. I didn’t love the writing in the book and felt like the writer couldn’t decide between being conversational and formal. But I did like the story and enjoyed hearing (finally...it took a while!!) how she came to adopt her daughter. I’m not sure I’m a strong enough person to handle the open adoption the way she did and certainly admire her strength and unconditional love for her daughter!!
Profile Image for Elizabeth Edwards.
4,995 reviews9 followers
February 15, 2019
oh my goodness, what a great read ... i've heard of many folks who have adopted kids ... one or multiple i can not imagine ... i am not parent but i can imagine the feelings and the emotions u might feel or go through ... i am a companionate person ... those feelings come easily and at times it was hard to hear or know how one might go through a stressful - emotional time like this ... so well written. great story. for me humor always get me through everything ... i see it here in this read. please check this out ... u do have an option to read or listen thx Amazon and KU ... great option.
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