3 out of 4 stars
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You breathe a sigh of relief. Your children are grown and gone, you move to a cozy home suited for your needs, you are on the brink of retirement… and then you receive some news that brings uncertainty to your plans. Such was the case for Izzie Beebe. It’s Complicated is her memoir told in the first person. She shares her story, which is indeed complicated, with raw honesty and candid self-reflection. Izzie is a remarkable person with a great capacity for love. After she grieves her own inability to conceive, she opens her heart and home to foster parenting and then adoption—first came Vianne and then Rhiannon. Izzie struggles with failure in marriage, feelings of rejection, and confusion about God. Told with straightforward honesty, she reveals her imperfections, her emotionally-based decisions, and her selfishness. Therefore, Izzie is a real, relatable person.
The reader meets Vianne, Izzie’s oldest daughter, early in the story. We learn that Vianne has Asperger’s and severe overall sensory integration dysfunction and will be unable to care for her son, Von, who is born as a micro-preemie baby. It’s Complicated follows the story of Von’s birth, his struggle to survive as a micro-preemie, and his impact on Izzie and the rest of the family. Woven into this overarching storyline is Rhiannon’s quest to learn of her birth family.
As would be expected with any story of adoption, themes of abandonment and grief are explored. What sets this memoir apart from others is that it reveals not only the pain and struggle of working through these difficulties but also the progression of perspective and healing that takes place in the process. The Izzie Bebe at the end of the story is not the same person as she was at the beginning.
I learned a lot by reading Izzie Bebe’s story. I gained an upfront and personal view of what it might be like to parent a child with autism—the fear, confusion, questions, and self-doubt. It was helpful to read about the presenting behaviors and the tenacity required to seek help, a diagnosis, and a treatment plan. In addition, I learned about foster parenting and the difference between open and closed adoption.
It’s Complicated is composed of an introduction by the author, 65 short chapters, and an epilogue. Each chapter, titled with a succinct word or phrase, begins with a quote. I enjoyed the easy-to-read, short format of each chapter, because it allowed for a brisk pace and prevented the story from dragging on unnecessarily. However, I found the quotes to be a bit puzzling and even distracting at times. Many of the quotes are cited to their author and come from a wide variety of sources, from Dalai Lama to Deepak Chopra to Vincent Van Gogh to the Bible. However, a significant number of the quotes are not associated with a source, leaving me to question where they came from. It’s a minor drawback that I felt worth mentioning.
The thing that I liked least about this story has nothing to do with the writing style, characterization, or plot. My trouble, instead, is found in Izzie’s spiritual journey. Izzie shares about her wonderful, loving father who lived his religion through service and kindness. In contrast was her broken mother who exhibited conditional love and rejection until her last days. Izzie, of course, had to find her own way spiritually. She often prayed at difficult times throughout her life (Von’s birth, her own miscarriages, her husband’s struggle with alcohol). God was confusing to her. She never came to any definitive conclusions. While this was sad and frustrating to me, as the reader, it also highlights a strength of the story: realism. The story wasn’t wrapped up in a tidy bow. It related the real struggle that a real woman lived.
Besides the puzzling quotes, the only other area for improvement would be the editing. There were numerous errors throughout the book, which is unfortunate given the inspirational and well-written story. Therefore, I award 3 out of 4 stars to It’s Complicated. I would recommend it to those who enjoy heartfelt, inspiring stories of real-life struggles. Anyone who is affected by autism or is interested in adoption would gain insights from reading this story.
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