Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours

Sarah Sentilles

Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn't Ours
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Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours

Sarah Sentilles

May you always feel at home.

After deciding not to have a biological child, Sarah Sentilles and her husband, Eric, try to adopt a baby through foster care. Knowing that the system aims for reunification with the birth family, they open their home to a flurry of social workers who question, evaluate, and prepare them to welcome a child into their family - even if it most likely means giving that child up.

After years of starts and stops, the phone call finally comes: a three-day-old baby girl, in urgent need of a foster family. Sarah and Eric bring this newborn stranger home.

‘You were never ours,‘ Sarah writes, ‘yet we belong to each other.’

An extraordinary account of love and belonging, Stranger Care shares her discovery of what it means to take care of someone beyond our immediate kin: not just a vulnerable infant, but also the birth mother who loves her too. Sarah Sentilles brings her trademark fearless prose and compassion to an intimate story with universal concerns: What does it mean to mother? How can we care for and protect each other? And how do we ensure a better future for life on this planet?

Review

If you don’t know Sarah Sentilles, you should seek her out. Go read her earlier books. She’s a writer of uncommonly beautiful creative nonfiction, her pages filled with grace and honesty.

In her award-winning book Draw Your Weapons, she wrote about the link between art and war – whether art might offer us the way forward in remaking the world. Her brilliant new book, Stranger Care, is a memoir that charts how she and her husband make the decision to foster a child (with the hope of adopting). The classes, the forms, the decisions that have to be made are overwhelming and confronting: will you take a child who has been sex trafficked, will you take a baby who is addicted to meth, will you take a child with severe behavioural issues? Sarah and Eric finally get a phone call from the social worker – there’s a three- day old baby girl who needs to go into care immediately. From the moment they pick up Coco from the hospital, they fall madly in love. Dangerous territory, considering they might need to give her back at any moment. Part of the foster carer package is Evelyn – Coco’s mother. Sentilles drives for hours, twice a week, to facilitate supervised visits with Evelyn; sends photos of Coco to her; sits on her side of the court as a support person; and helps her bond with her baby.

Sentilles is uncommonly wise and brave. Fostering is not easy, and she’s remarkably candid about the conflicting feelings she has – trying to love Evelyn, at the same time as wanting to adopt the delightful Coco. The honesty and humanity in this book is astonishing. This is a story about love. The hardest type of love. The love that has to consider the idea of handing back a delightful and adored baby, after ten months of caring for her full time.


Gab Williams works as a bookseller at Readings Malvern and is the Grants Officer for the Readings Foundation.

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