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The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family

Jeanne Marie LaskasDoubleday; $23.95

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Picking up where her previous memoir, Fifty Acres and a Poodle, left off, Jeanne Marie Laskas and her husband of two years (a “shrink with a poodle”) are now settled on a funky farm in Pennsylvania with a variety of pets. They love each other. They talk to each other and they bicker and they laugh. When the book opens, she has just experienced an epiphany in the home appliance department of Sears. She is, she realizes, happy.

But something is missing. “We are a family of two living happily ever after on fifty acres in the middle of nowhere.…But the truth is, I am craving family noise. Craving it in a way that makes my teeth hurt, if only in those moments between sleep and wake, in those tiny blasts of consciousness you do your very best to ignore.”

With an engaging mix of humor and reflection, Laskas chronicles the enormous changes of a year. Her mother falls suddenly and seriously ill, and as the caretaking roles are reversed, Laskas catches sight of herself—“a mom without a child”—and knows at once that her journey to parenthood has begun. Along the way, she finds unlikely spirit guides, the most prominent being a stray beagle found on the roadside. She and her husband work through doubts and fears, obstacles and choices. While adoption was a decision that they were able to make in “about three seconds,” their journey was not without heartbreak. Throughout, Laskas writes about the adoption process with reassuring wisdom and wit.

This is a book about the fierceness of love, about belonging, about the bonds within families and communities, between past and present, and the sometimes seemingly haphazard ways that connections are created or uncovered. Laskas finds a larger connection that amounts to faith.

While on their adoption trip to China, they visit the hospital gate where their infant daughter was found. Laskas imagines coming back to this spot with her husband and grown daughter. “We could eat Cheerios in a van that doesn’t take bumps too well,” she writes. “We could stare together at this spot, we could be cheerful or we could cry. We could sit together in a mystery in which we’ve long since learned we belong.”

The Exact Same Moon is funny, moving, honest, and hopeful. Adoptive families will find much to recognize and ponder in this deeply personal account, wherever they find themselves on their own journey to “family noise.”

Reviewed by Eliza Thomas, author of The Red Blanket (Scholastic, 2004). Thomas lives in Vermont with her daughter, Panpan.

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