Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours by Sarah Sentilles
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.