Author: Erin Altrama

Publisher: Donohue Publications

ISBN: 978-0-9575203-1-8

                                                An Adopted Child’s Search for Roots

It is a fact of life today that most of us feel incomplete and unfulfilled. This incompleteness serves as the impetus to our desires: to have the wealth, the knowledge, the relationship, or even the understanding that we believe would  make us whole. Most often we seek outside of ourselves, only to realize later on that most of the answers we seek lie within our experience. The above search is something akin to the author’s experience as an adopted child searching for her roots, a process she describes in detail in this book.

From the introduction to this book, “Erin Altrama tells her story which began in a mother and baby home run by Good Shepherd nuns based in Glasgow. Here she remained for the first few months of her life before being adopted. Her biological mother came from Ireland and requested that her child be raised as a Catholic in an Irish family”.

At this point it is in order to mention that Erin Altrama is an assumed name. The reason for the particular alias is explained as “Erin means from Ireland and Altrama translates from Irish to mean adopted”.

The book starts as mentioned above, with the story of the author being born and being borne away by a childless couple from a relieved mother, who could return home, secure in the knowledge that. as an unwed mother, she had done the best for her child. Little “Erin” is looked after by her adoptive parents and grows up to be a well adjusted adult. She meets a fellow student at nineteen called Jack and gets married to him at twenty three. Two boys are born to them. “During these formative years, the fact that the girl (the author) was adopted did not play on her mind....out of a genuine feeling that she did not need to know”.

As time went on, she watched her boys sleeping in their cot, “fascinated by their individual characteristics...any link to my own genetic pool remained a mystery...persistent questions for which I could find no answers started to niggle”. The search for authentic answers to these questions “turns into a personal journey of epic proportions, taking twenty five years”. The story of this search is the subject of this book. At the end, unable to meet either of her parents in person, after a long process of tracking them down, she nevertheless finds solace and healing in owning and cultivating her Irish identity, by virtue of many visits to Ireland, where she took part in random conversations with women at the same age as her mother and thus came to a clearer understanding of her mother’s state of mind at the time of her adoption.

The reading experience of this book is enhanced by poems written by the author, revealing a deeply sensitive and vulnerable side of hers. At the end of the text, there is a prolonged interview with Stephen Small, a director of St. Andrews Child Adoption Society, Edinburgh, on a range of issues faced by biological parents, adoptive parents and adoptee children seeking contact with the former.

The reason for the title “Candle in the Mirror’’ is as follows: “Within a biological family, children are constantly exposed to mirroring in small ways, (in their) walk, talk...talents...These are known as genetic markers. The adopted child constantly searches for mirroring, but does not receive relevant feedback in the same way possible...I think of it as the flicker of a candle in the dark distorting the image that reflects back to us from a mirror”. It is interesting that this observation crystallized after the author had given birth to children of her own.

This book would be very helpful, not only for those facing adoption issues, but for anybody who is involved in a deep search, which turns out to be fruitless on the physical plane, as the internal work needed to achieve the result has fructified and the physical outcome lacks significance. That was my personal experience after reading this book.

Highly recommended.


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