Book Review: Permanent Home by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Mary Ellen Gambutti’s new memoir book, Permanent Home, is lyrical, descriptive and fast-moving. It is the story of her life presented in brief but richly-worded glimpses into simpler, more traditional times while coming of age during the eye-opening, counter-culture emergent 1950s-70s. The opening section of this book masterfully sets the scene during a time when American prosperity and freedom abound and blissful acceptance of authority was the norm. This section is also about Gambutti’s loving relationship with her Nana and their shared esteem for gardening and nature.

In the middle sections of this book, the story continues as the author shares her joys and frustrations of being adopted, searching for and connecting with biological family. She describes via assorted vignettes her frustrations regarding closed birth records, missing health history and not looking like anyone in her family plus the marvels of her reunion experiences. She tells of the turbulent relationship between herself and her military-careered adoptive father, her teen angst and rebellion as she comes out of not just the usual fog all adolescents experience but the adoptee fog, which creates an additional layer.

The later parts of Gambutti’s story tie up the loose ends and take the reader into more recent times: her gardening career, survival of a hemorrhagic stroke and hard-fought recovery and her life now, filled with writing, love of plants, nature, and peace.

Permanent Home is a wonderful life story which would have appeal to any fellow adoptee, especially those from the Baby-Scoop Era, and anyone else in the adoption community, seeking research, kinship, and validation. It’s a quick read for those short on time, but Gambutti, an expert in the Haibun writing style, packs a lot of imagery and feeling into her written art.

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