‘Forever Lily’ blends dreams and reality for emotional storytelling

Every once in a while I devour a book in a day, not counting the times I crammed for a college exam. A good story allows me to escape into another world as each page unfolds with curious characters, twisting plots, and complex human emotions that stay with me long after I read the acknowledgements. Then again, I sobbed uncontrollably throughout the memoir about a dog named Marley.

The book Forever Lily, which is about an mother’s unexpected journey to adoption in China, is one of those wrap-yourself-in-it reads. Forever Lily is a true story about author Beth Nonte Russell’s own experience finding a soul mate of sorts, a baby daughter. And she’s not even looking for one.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra advertisement

While there’s no Jewish theme in Forever Lily, the topic of adoption touches all people.

Think about it…Moses was “adopted” by Pharoah’s daughter, which led to the redemption of the Israelite nation. Also, the Talmud recognizes that raising a child is like bearing a child, (Sanhedrin 19b), which is certainly relevant in adoption stories like Forever Lily.

This story starts out when Russell accompanies her friend Alex to China to bring home a baby girl from an orphanage there. Throughout the book, the reader gets a glimpse into what life is like for some of these innocent, unwanted babies, who spend most of their days lying on their backs in rows of cribs without any love or stimulation. Occasionally, they get to sit upright and are strapped to a chair, their arms flailing for attention whenever a potential parent walks by. Russell, a world traveler and stepmother of three children, is in China to emotionally support her friend, Alex, and the last thing on her mind is to adopt a baby herself.

While in China, Russell starts to have a sequence of bizarre dreams, implying a previous life when she was a Chinese woman in Imperial China. Here’s where fiction and non-fiction take over the reader’s imagination. Whether you’re a believer or not, the dreams are nevertheless fascinating. In the author’s subconscious state, aking is attracted to her and decides to make her the mother of the heir to his throne. The woman is in love with another man, however, and they have a daughter together. She is forced to give away the baby girl before the king discovers she’s not loyal to him.

As Russell’s dreams play out in real life, the plot thickens. In a twist of fate, Alex suddenly changes her mind about adopting the frail, tiny girl, who they call “Baby.” The maternal instincts don’t kick in for Alex, and she panics at the thought of taking care of Baby for the rest of her life. Even though Alex has prepared for this adoption for months and filled out all the paperwork, she’s overwhelmed now at the thought of being a mom to Baby. Russell is perplexed at her friend’s unpredictable behavior and observes Alex distancing herself from Baby.

Unbelievably, Alex asks Russell to take Baby home instead. Russell is shocked and reluctant at first because it doesn’t seem right. At the same time, Russell knows in her heart that Baby is meant to be with her. Russell continues to bond with Baby every time she gives her a bottle, paces the hallways at night to soothe her cries, and walks her outside in the stroller each morning.

Then Alex “throws another punch” at Russell when she changes her mind about Baby and wants to give adoption another try.

Russell mourns for the daughter she almost had and is scared for Baby’s well-being. She is angry at Alex for being so cold and unfeeling toward Baby.

Still, Russell hides her emotions to protect herself from getting hurt again, and worse, losing Baby.

Russell follows the messages in her dreams and knows that she faces the greatest challenge of her life. She is given another chance to keep the daughter she gave away in her dream, which is why she feels so committed to bring home Baby against all odds.

Forever Lily delivers a happy ending, by the way.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is stocking up on canned goods for various food drives, but still has nothing to eat for dinner tonight. Feel free to send any comments, recipes to: [email protected] or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.