The Way It Should Be – Christina Suzann Nelson

“What she wanted to say – the words were screaming through her brain – was that she didn’t plan this. It wasn’t what she wanted. Why couldn’t she have a normal family…just this once?”

This wonderful book, The Way It Should Be, touched me within pages. It deals with a subject very close to my heart, as it looks at a dysfunctional family, addiction and fostering. It is such a complex issue, and as an adoptive mum, I’m very aware of this… Christina Suzann Nelson has done a beautiful job showing us this topic, clearly drawing on her experience with Every Child Oregon an organisation that strives to support children in care, foster carers and families.

The Way It Should Be talks about two estranged sisters, twins, whose paths meet again, but not in ideal circumstances. That’s really the whole of the book, summing up fostering and adoption: not ideal. Not the way it should be. The way Christina deals with it helped and blessed me, reading this book way past my bedtime.

Zara is a newlywed, with wonderful plans and a lovely new husband. Her life feels great, the way it should be. Then there is her sister Eve. Zara hasn’t heard from Eve for years. Eve’s life is far removed from The Way It Should Be. Christina paints her struggles, hopes and fears beautifully. There is no judgment; we are made to feel for Eve, without condoning her lifestyle or choices. That is one of the things I loved about this book. It’s very real and honest.

As the blurb will tell you, Zara is contacted by the state to take custody of Eve’s children. Zara didn’t even know Eve had children. There are other details around having children that kept me gripped all through the book as well, but of course, no spoilers here! Zara is torn between doing what she knows is right, and what she wants to do. And what if the children don’t even like her?

The Way It Should Be

Then there is another, older woman in the whole mix, Tiff Bradley. After facing a heartbreaking tragedy in her own family, she is now dedicated to helping women everyone else has given up on. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Tiff. Sometimes I liked her, other times she annoyed me, haha. Christina brings out Tiff’s hard questions and decisions; again, it’s all about the way it should be done. What should Tiff do, and how far should she go in her efforts to help others?

I loved the way Christina described the children and the initial difficulties they showed. I want to do another blog, just on that. (Our experiences didn’t quite match the timeline of the book, although other adopters will have different experiences. It’s a great topic to discuss though!) The little boy is adorable, and I could just picture the little girl. “And what’s with the hair?” was probably my favourite quote from the girl! Trust a five-year-old to give it to you straight…

The ending was great, heart-warming as well as heartbreaking. Again, no easy answers or smoothed out reactions. The book is full of hope, courage and faith. I loved it because of that. The subject is so hard, sad and hopeless in itself, so to be able to look at it in this way was a real gift. Christina showed us the reality of fostering and adoption, and how it involves loss, grief and blessing and hope on both sides.

Christina Suzann Nelson, the author

I thoroughly recommend this book, especially to those of you who are touched by adoption or fostering. The book is published by Bethany House, and has a lovely relief cover (I love covers with a special feel!).

I received a free copy of The Way It Should Be, but was under no obligation or pressure to give a favourable review. These views are my own, private thoughts on this book.

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