By Erin Siegal
Cathexis Press, $14.95, 280 pages
Finding Fernanda began as Erin Siegal’s graduate thesis at the Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting. What emerged from her rigorous research is a horrifyingly real account of a Guatemalan mother’s search for her kidnapped daughters, Maria Fernanda and Ana Cristina, and an American mother’s roller coaster attempt to adopt them. Through the stories of these women, Siegal exposes the corruption that can be hidden beneath the charitable veneer of adoption. The gross misconduct used to deceive both women, the commercialization of children, and the inaction of authorities prompt readers to question their own moral and cultural values.
Though less stylistically seamless than Tracy Kidder or Benjamin Skinner’s writing, Finding Fernanda nonetheless establishes Siegal as an inspired non-fiction author. Her ruthless search for truth unfolds a riveting story that incorporates all stakeholders’ points of view. At times, her thorough presentation of facts becomes cumbersome, particularly in the last third of the uncorrected proof. In stark contrast to the rest of the book, the scarcity of details surrounding the adoption of a third child, Emily Belle, also raises questions. Despite these flaws, the book remains a compelling narrative. Siegal’s account inspires trust in intuition and the championing of truth and justice.
Reviewed by Halley Greene