Editorial Review: Seeking Forgiveness by Lea Rachel
Seeking Forgiveness by Lea Rachel is a book that once started, you will find difficult to put down.
This is a semi-autobiographical work—a fictionalized memoir that incorporates the authenticity of the author’s personal experience as a white woman adopting a black baby. Albeit the novel increases the challenges faced by the mother by adding the complexity of a marriage breakdown and looks forward to the incredible difficulties of teenage years that the author is yet to experience with her own adopted son.
Seeking Forgiveness opens and closes eight hours apart. A mother receives the call in the middle of the night that all parents fear as their children begin to forge a life outside the safety of their home; staying out past curfew and getting into who knows what kind of trouble. Miles, Rachel’s beloved sixteen-year-old adopted son, has been arrested.
As she is forced to wait in the police station, desperate to find out what happened and frantic to get Miles released, Rachel travels the corrosive parental journey of self-blame and doubt. All compounded by the fundamental fear that those who said interracial adoption could never work, were right. That she has failed—despite the immense love she has for her child, and her constant battle to keep him safe, nurture him and provide a positive future.
The author deftly weaves the past and present timelines together, building the reader’s support for Miles and Rachel by sharing the frustrations and pettiness of systemic racism and bigotry, and the weight of constantly being out of step with the white mainstream culture in which they try to quietly co-exist.
The odds are stacked against Miles. He was adopted at birth—his birth mother is dead; his birth father is unknown. His adoptive father leaves before he is six. His adopted mother loves him deeply but struggles without family support as a single white woman who must work long hours, and who is human. She makes mistakes.
Even without the complexity of raising a black boy in white middle-class suburbia, most readers will relate to the human failings of parental oversights or awkward decisions. Being unable to afford the latest gadgets, throwing the wrong kind of party, failing to get the right invitations, asking the wrong questions and the list never ends.
It is all magnified when you’re a single parent. Then intensified if the child is adopted. And it becomes a hot, guilty mess when inter-racial complexity is added.
The power of Seeking Forgiveness is the roller coaster of the timeline, dipping back and forth with well-timed triggers and recollections. The reader gains insight into the deep wounds that are caused by unconscious racism without a sense of self-pity or anger. If anything, there is bewilderment that anyone should still find it worthy of comment that a white family should have a child of a different color.
The author maintains the tension in the final chapter. What did Miles do? Will the accusation be transformed into a formal charge? Will innocence triumph over racial bias? The great sadness is that the mother’s fears seem all too real. And, given the closeness of the subject matter to the author’s own life, they are no doubt fears that she too holds.
Seeking Forgiveness is a five-star recommended reading. One can hope that in writing this powerful novel, Lea Rachel has reduced the chance that her son will suffer the same insidious mistreatment and risks of the miscarriage of justice that racism tragically imposes on those outside the tribe wielding power.