|A loving mother's advice - never stop walking.|
Christina Rickardsson came into the world named Christiana Mara Coelho. She lived with her mother in the slums (also called "Favela") of Sao Paulo, Brazil. A baby brother was born. At times, the little family slept in a cave. Other times, they slept on the street. Food was often found in the trash and on days that food couldn't be found, paint was sniffed in order to dampen the hunger pains. Death, decay, grief, and loss are a part of the lives of children living in the Favela. Sinister people and traumatic things are lurking around every corner. But young Christiana feels safe and loved with her mother.
There comes a time that Christiana is separated from her mother. At the ripe old age of 7, she is forced to choose between running away and remaining to care for her much younger brother. She is adopted after a year in an orphanage. She may as well have been sent to a different planet. She cannot understand the language, food is different but plentiful, and she has a physical home. Her physical needs are taken care of.
What happens next?
The story does not move in a linear fashion. It bounces back and forth between life with her biological family in Brazil and life with her adoptive family in Sweden. The descriptions of childhood in Brazil transported me there. The story also includes life as a young adult attempting to reconcile her two very different childhoods, her two very different selves. And try to make sense of how things came to be.
At times, near the middle of the book, I felt it dragged a bit. As though I had read the author's same thoughts and concerns multiple times. But at the end of the story I found that it was helpful to understand the jumble of feelings that such a life creates.
The thing that really struck me about this story, and reinforced what I already know from my work, is that parental alienation is often the most traumatic thing a child can experience. Above all, Christina seemed most impacted by the way she was separated from and kept from her biological mother. In my opinion, "civilized" societies believe that children are better away from poverty - even if that means destroying the parent-child ties. I don't think that financial stability and/or excess is able to heal the wounds created by this familial loss. But I digress.
The way Christiana and her mother were separated was viewed by those involved as the best way to give Christiana a good start with her new family. When in reality, it seemed more traumatic for Christiana than witnessing a murder, living in a cave in the forest as a child, and routinely experiencing hunger. True, with the financially stable life, Christina received an education and opportunities that allowed her to make some choices she would not have been able to make otherwise. But it seemed to me that very choice showed us how much healing and reconciling she needed to do.
What choices did she make as a young adult? What has she done since then? You'll have to read her story to find out.
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