It has been widely reported that Adoption in Australia is a difficult, time consuming, and expensive process. In recent times the number of adoptions, both inter-country and overseas has dropped dramatically. Some have suggested that Australia’s past adoption policies have had a significant impact on the political and social ‘red tape’ that exists in today’s adoption process.
During the period of 1950 – early 1980 it was the policy of the Australian government to take babies born to unmarried mothers and have them adopted out. A large portion of these ‘forced’ adoptions were supported by the birth mother’s family due to the social stigma attached to an unmarried pregnancy.
In the wake of an inquiry by the Federal Senate, and the growing list of Australian States formally apologising to those affected by the forced adoption practices, comes a new novel addressing the traumatic results of negative community and political attitudes towards young, unmarried mothers during this period.
The Greenfield Legacy is a new contemporary novel co-authored by four Australian fiction writers; Paula Vince, Meredith Resce, Amanda Deed and Rose Dee that highlights the emotionally damaging repercussions of the clean-break policies that deeply affected families.
What made four authors decide to embark upon writing a book with the theme of adoption?
Amanda Deed: Paula had seen other novels on the market with four authors, although they were each a set of novellas with a theme running through. She thought it would be great to see something like that done by Australian authors, so after thinking over it some more, contacted Rose, Meredith and Amanda to see if they were interested. We all thought it would be good to have a go.
From there, through discussions on Facebook, Skype and email, we put together a plot and created characters we each would write. It quickly became obvious this was no four-part novella collection. This was one story with four voices. The theme of adoption came through when Mattie had to give up her baby. The roll-on emotional effect of this became the basis for each character’s story.
How did this theme play out within the storyline of the novel?
Rose Dee: The novel starts with one drastic event – the taking of a baby. This event drives the entire emotional wave of the storyline.
After having been forced to give up her child, Mattie finds it hard to invest in any relationship, whether that is with her husband, daughter or granddaughter. But when the child she gave up finally makes contact, she is hopeful that some light will be shed on the pain she suffered. Unfortunately, a long term future with her daughter comes too late. Annette has sought out her biological mother because she is dying.
The entry of Annette into the lives of Mattie’s family has a drastic effect. Her daughter, Connie and granddaughter, Brooke both have a myriad of emotions that sends them on a roller coaster ride of self-analysis. And Annette’s daughter, Navy, who had been abandoned by her mother, is not only forced to face what she perceives to be hostile biological kin, but also the sense of rejection that her mother has passed on to her.
Adoption has a wide reaching effect, and as authors, we wanted to show the damage that holding onto negative experiences and perceptions can have, and also how God can heal hurts and change hearts.
What are the emotional impacts of adoption in the storyline?
Paula Vince: Firstly, of course, our characters, Mattie and Annette, were impacted greatly. After being forced to give up her baby, we see Mattie’s subsequent hardening of her heart for self-protection, as she couldn’t bear the possibility of feeling so vulnerable and hurt again. The baby herself, Annette, grows up with the belief that she must have been unwanted by her biological parents, and she feels inferior to her sister, the biological child of her adoptive parents. Our story shows that Annette’s assumption was entirely false, but it helped form attitudes in her heart which caused her to make negative decisions in her adult life.
We also hoped to show that the impact of adoption doesn’t end with those directly concerned. Mattie’s biological daughter, Connie, has grown up resenting what she perceives as hardness and lack of maternal love from her mother. She copes with this partly by throwing herself into her career and becoming a high-achiever. This, in turn, impacts her daughter, Brooke, who has grown up feeling a pressure to excel. And Annette’s daughter, Navy, has been raised without her mother’s influence for many years, creating a rejection complex which she tries hard to hide. Our stage is set for plenty of emotional upheaval when these characters end up beneath the same roof. The original decision for Annette to be adopted is a major catalyst for the whole story, as emotional repercussions rippled wide for many years.
What do you want the legacy of this novel to be, and how does the theme of adoption feature in this legacy?
Meredith Resce: As ‘The Greenfield Legacy’ project began to take shape, I really began to feel the burden of Mattie, the older woman who was suddenly forced to face the tragedy of her youth. The young Mattie had got pregnant to the love of her life, only to lose him as a victim in the Vietnam War. The unyielding attitudes of her highly religious parents and an unforgiving society forced Mattie to give her baby up. It went against everything she felt inside, loving the baby and loving the baby’s father. But both were cruelly torn from her. It was at this point in her life that she emotionally closed down. Unable to cope with the grief of loss, and returning to a home and community who didn’t even want to acknowledge there had been anything to lose in the first place, Mattie carefully constructed a wall of hardness. It was this wall that succeeded in then destroying her marriage to a decent young man, and cost her a relationship with her legitimate daughter from that marriage. Some forty years later, she is faced with the trail of emotional disasters and the associated grief.
I really wanted to examine this vault of pain: the causes, the consequences and the hope for eventual healing and reconciliation. Even in the writing, I as the author, and I believe also the reader, have to travel with Mattie back through each experience and find the healing that needs to happen. I am really hoping that this story will be a trigger for readers to come to that place of realizing they may need to face past mistakes and past pain, and travel the journey toward healing.