Review of Dear Stephen Michael’s Mother

This is an outstanding new adoptee memoir by Kevin Barhydt. Barhydt bares his soul artfully and passionately as he unfolds two tales: the story of his coming of age in the 1960s-70s and early 80s and the story of his search for his elusive biological mother.

Substance addiction is a common concern for many in the adoptee community, and Barhydt spares few details as he shares his painful experiences which began as an innocent pre-teen lad and continued through his time in the military and beyond. Every social, romantic, work-related and familial relationship is tested to the brink as he descends further into the upside-down world of alcohol, drugs and multiple forms of abuse. There are painful parts to read, but this is Kevin’s truth and as most adopted people understand, our truths matter; ALL truths matter, including the difficult ones. 

The part about his search and reunion experience was very similar to my own in that it took place during a similar era, and he found siblings in a totally different time zone in what felt like a magical and “exotic” section of the continent unlike any other part of the US. It also happened pre-social media. There is one other similarity, but it would be a spoiler to disclose it in this review.

A few items that “jumped’ out at me while reading:  

  1. “…My mother and father had searched for a child, paid a fee, signed paperwork, and claimed me as their own. Now I did the same.” This is from the section when the author comes to the conclusion that he needs to put his faith in the services of a paid search angel. Most adoptees were “paid for” because of private lawyer fees, agency fees or even general courthouse fees. Typically our adoptive parents assumed these costs. Even if it is / was a norm of the day, the idea can make some adopted people feel like merchandise.
  2. It’s probably a coincidence but the fact that Barhydt was at one point deployed to a naval base in Rota, Spain struck me. (I’m a Spanish education major!) The adjective, “Roto / Rota” (feminine version) in Spanish means “broken”. How odd and poignant that as the author was hitting a “broken” point of his life he was sent to a town by the same name. 

This memoir is an easy-not-easy read. Not easy due to some of the sensitive subject matter; easy in that Barhydt writes with an engaging and clear, straight-forward style. I finished all 267 pages of this book in basically two days. (That includes the prologue to the acknowledgments.) I could not put it down, and I felt involved with every character in the story. This is a great addition to every adoption constellation member’s book collection and an especially brilliant insight for counselors / therapists and anyone with addiction experiences. 

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  • Joy Smith  On February 22, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    Another one to add to my reading list. Thank you J x

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