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Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  221 ratings  ·  37 reviews
This gripping memoir details an ordinary American woman’s quest to adopt a baby girl from Guatemala in the face of overwhelming adversity. At only 32 years old, Jessica O’Dwyer experiences early menopause, seemingly ending her chances of becoming a mother. Years later, married but childless, she comes across a photo of a two-month-old girl on a Guatemalan adoption website ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Seal Press (first published August 24th 2010)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
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Thorn MotherIssues
Interesting that she was honest about the ways she and others paticipated in corruption when they were desperate, which is probably something unusual to read in an adoption memoir. I found the last chapter about connections with birth family absolutely moving, but was also kind of frustrated throughout that someone who didn't do her due diligence and knew very little about adoption going in was able to get a book deal out of it. Is that unfair? I don't know. ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a seriously great and unique book. If you are interested in adoption, international travel, or Latin American culture, this will be a book to enjoy. Mamalita offered unique insight into the increasingly controversial practice of international adoption. The author is exceedingly brave in being extremely open about her adoption experience. She wasn't afraid to air some unflattering information about herself.

If you love the complicated and fascinating country of Guatemala, you will also lo
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
Bring tissues for the end-I was sobbing. I thought this book wouldn't engross me but it did; actually a fast read which was a surprise. It didn't matter whether I would or wouldn't do what the author did; she does a great job of bringing you emotionally into her world. She lives in Marin so we had the local angle as well. ...more
Karen Sukenic
Jul 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt like I was in Guatemala, going through every twist and turn of the author's story. The descriptive details of their family's adoption story, the process, as well as the colorful descriptions of Guatemala as a beautiful and complicated country, heightened my connection to their adoption journey. Definitely worth reading to learn about the journey to parenthood through adoption, and to learn about the complex and rich history of the Guatemalan people in this insightful, wise, reflective tal ...more
Audrey Walden
Was disappointed. A friend gave it to me and enjoyed it. I thought it read like a short story that had gone too long.
Sharon Mccarthy
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent -- part arm-chair travel, part memoir about what one woman will do to become a mom. Well written, the author painted a very vivid picture of Guatemala.
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This was a wonderfully written adoption memoir. What Jessica and her husband Tim went through to adopt their daughter from Guatemala was an utter nightmare. The obstacles, red tape, lies, excuses, the denigration, and misrepresentations were unbelievable.

This memoir was part adventure story, travel story, love story and the unconditional fierce love that a mother feels for her child. Jessica was a much stronger, courageous and braver woman than she ever thought she was. To endure the heartbreaki
Mamalita, by Jessica O'Dwyer, was a very compelling story about the struggles of adoption. In this memoir, Jessica and her husband agree on adopting a little girl. Jessica feels drawn to adopt from the country of Guatemala because the babies adopted from that country usually get to their adopted families sooner than most countries. However, Guatemala turns out to be a bad decision as the couple learn about its system and its unreliable adoptions. My eyes were really opened to the struggles and l ...more
I appreciated the raw, authentic, honesty of the author however I did not find that I enjoyed the book as much as I hoped to. Obviously, as a memoir Jessica O'Dwyer is sharing her experience and portraying that experience of a Guatemalan-US adoption as she lived it. I, therefore do not find fault in the actual story.

Perhaps, it was because I read this book as a woman who has considered adoption and wanted to know more about it. I knew there was corruption, and obviously we cannot expect to find
Rosa Folgar
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. It is the first book I've ever read about my country and its heartbreaking depiction of the maya indigenous and the poor remind me why. I think it is a good story and I admire the author for tenacity and her honesty, but at the same time, I found it judge mental and I resent her.

As I read the last pages and get to the end, I see the picture of Olivia and she looks just like my sister. Our parents were there for the civil war and we were some of thos
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Seal Press|October 19, 2010|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-58005-334-1
Jessica O'Dwyer is the adoptive mother of two children born in Guatemala, Olivia and, Mateo.
Jessica and her doctor husband went to hell and back trying to get their daughter out of Guatemala. It wasn't the most pleasant experience of their lives. Dealing with corrupt people, knowing who to trust and who not to trust was one of their biggest hurdles. From lost documentation to cover-ups it didn't seem as though this coup
Gil Michelini
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story that show just how far we will go for our children. Jessica does a great job pulling the reader into her time living in Guatemala to bring her daughter home. As a fellow adopter of a daughter of Guatemala, I was especially interested in her descriptions of what goes on behind the reception desks in a Guatemalan adoption.

If you are looking for a feel-good, quick-read, possible tear-jerker at the end this is a book for you. If you are considering international adoption from any cou
Kim Gjerde
I rarely purchase books, but since I could not find this book to borrow I broke down and bought it. I read it in about 3-4 days, which is very quick for me. As I read it I kept feeling like she was telling my own Guatemalan adoption story, only her's occured 4 years earlier. In some ways I had wish this book had been published before we decided to adopt. I wonder if we would of done things differently. On the other hand had we not experienced what we did in Guatemala would I ever think to read t ...more
Brandon O'Neill
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this fast read about an international adoption between the U.S. and Guatemala in several places that I have been to. The corruption aspect of adoption in Guatemala is disturbing since it relates to some of the most vulnerable people on Earth. Having to deal with it for the greater good is also disturbing. No clear answers here - people do what they have to do to get their child home. I don't know if it is good that the system is different now. Does changing the players in adoption mea ...more
K.J. Dell'Antonia
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this memoir of a procedurally tough Guatemalan adoption, which I know others who've lived through. It reminded me of Love in the Driest Season. An unflinching look at both Guatemala and its corrupt systems, and at adoptive parents, besides. It's an exciting and even suspenseful read, as well, and more great exploratory inner memoir--how much is the author capable of, and how much can she take-- more than "parenting memoir." ...more
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this one down - I would still have really enjoyed this one even if we weren't adopting...

You really get a sense of Guatemala, the pains of adopting (from anywhere), the emotional roller coaster. I was really frustrated that she went into it so blindly... emotion definitely overshadowed ethics (and common sense!). But she was really candid about the dark side of everything, including herself.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the mom of a daughter adopted in Guatemala this was a MUST read. Jessica describes all of the emotions so well that I felt but had somehow forgotten....kind of like a mom who gave birth and forgot the pain. Reading about her visits to the offices in Guatemala where all the paperwork went was very eye-opening.
Aug 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was good. It really made me appreciate how easy my Guatemalan adoption was. It's a very intimate look into the mind of the adoptive mother and just scratches the surface on all the emotions involved. This would be good for anyone who has ever been curious about adoption and/or Guatemala. ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love books on adoption for some reason and this one really was interesting to me as it took place in the country where I grew up and a lot of it in my town. About a North American couples hardship with the adoption proccess.

Read it on my Kindle
Ilie Ruby
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous memoir detailing a harrowing but ultimately heartwarming journey through the labyrinth of international adoption, specifically in Guatemala. Pacing was just exquisite. A well-told story very much worth reading.
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as quickly as humanly possible while also being responsible for 3 kids. It was an easy, but incredible, read. I'm not sure it is for everyone, but as an adoptive mom of a Guatemalan child, I loved it! ...more
A fast-paced and heartfelt read. I could've done with more interrogation into the complexities of international and trans racial adoption, particularly given the heinous corruption described in the book. ...more
Patricia V. Davis
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
See our review the December 2010 issue of HS radio e- magazine (Coming out December 10, 2010) at ...more
A friend gave me this book because she knows the author. Enjoyable and certainly an eye-opener to the world of international adoptions and the turmoil that can be part of that world.
Erin Siegal
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: already-read
Wow. Lots to say about this one.... can't say I'm satisfied with the way this author portrays corruption in Guatemalan-US adoption. ...more
Amanda Birdwell
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and realistic. Really, a good, good good story, plus one that made me think a lot differently about parenthood.
Kim Conrad
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, heart wrenching tale of determination and fortitude. A must read for anyone considering or in the adoption process.
Marianne Lonsdale
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing

I expected a tale of motherhood and got that, but also a gripping adventure and travel story. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, personal memoir about adopting from Guatemala. This book hit all the right notes for me because it was nuanced and complex.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very interesting, true story of the corrupt world of international adoption in guatemala (since then, reforms have been instituted) and the lengths to which parents will go for their children.
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Jessica O'Dwyer is the adoptive mother to two children born in Guatemala. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Adoptive Families, and West Marin Review. She lives in Northern California. ...more

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