After their decision not to have a biological child, Sarah Sentilles and her husband, Eric, decide to adopt via the foster care system. Despite knowing that the system’s goal is reunification with the birth family, Sarah opens their home to a flurry of social workers who question, evaluate, and ultimately prepare them to welcome a child into their family — even if it means most likely having to give them back. After years of starts and stops, and endless navigation of the complexities and injustices of the foster care system, a phone call finally comes: a three-day old baby girl, named Coco, in immediate need of a foster family. Sarah and Eric bring this newborn stranger home.
“You were never ours,” Sarah tells Coco, “yet we belong to each other.”
A love letter to Coco, and to the countless children like her, Stranger Care chronicles Sarah’s discovery of what it means to mother — in this case, not just a vulnerable infant, but the birth mother who loves her, too. Ultimately, Coco’s story reminds us that we depend on family, and that family can take different forms. Sentilles lays bare an intimate, powerful story, with universal concerns: How can we care for and protect each other? How do we ensure a more hopeful future for life on this planet? And if we’re all related — tree, bird, star, person — how might we better live?
Reasons to read it: This is a beautiful, vulnerable, heart-wrenching story — one of the most emotionally affecting books I’ve ever read. I do want to say that anyone interested in this topic should also read accounts from adoptees and people who have gone through the foster system, especially stories from Indigenous people and people of color. My other hesitancy about this book is that although it changes her name, it does refer to personal aspects of the biological mother’s story. It is, however, an empathetic, melancholy, painfully tender story that explores and critiques the foster system, how we take care of each other, and what family looks like.