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Lucky Girl

by Mei-Ling Hopgood(Algonquin, $24)

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Mei-Ling Hopgood was seven months old when she left Taiwan to start her new life. In Lucky Girl (Algonquin, $24), she not only recounts her happy childhood in a Detroit suburb, with her parents and two younger, Korean brothers, but also the journey that reunites her with her birth family.

In 1995, Hopgood, then 21 years old, was presented with photos taken two decades earlier, and a way to contact her birth family. A long, and almost daily, exchange of letters, e-mails, and faxes followed. "We knew this was not the end of our chapter in your life; it was just the beginning of a new one," wrote her birthfather. Finally, in March 1997--with a present-stuffed suitcase and a few Mandarin sayings at her command--Hopgood met her birth family in Taiwan. "'Ni-Hao,' I said as Ma walked up to me and burst into tears. We hugged, and then Ba embraced me, crying. I let out a sob and was surprised by my own sorrow."

I also cried. I often think about my daughter's birthparents, and I know they think of her, too. Lucky Girl confirms what I suspect: The birth family never forgets.

I was relieved, however, to know that Hopgood included her American parents in the decision to contact and meet her Chinese family, and, later, in the decision for both families to meet. Her birth and upbringing were gifts to both sets of parents.

As Hopgood reflects on what her life would have been had she not been adopted, she contrasts their two worlds: "I had been given the real-life privilege of seeing what my life could have been had I stayed in Taiwan, and that realization filled me with a confusing mix of remorse and relief."

Lucky Girl is a vibrant take on the adoptee's emotional roller-coaster, from conversations with birth family to bonding with her sisters, from her Chinese father's obsession with having a son to the birth of her own daughter. It's a riveting ride for readers, too.

Read an excerpt from Lucky Girl.

Reviewed by freelance writer KELLY HARAMIS, who lives in Highland Park, Illinois, with her husband and their two daughters, one of whom was adopted from China.

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