Craig A. Steffen: A Family Apart
A Family Apart:
Sleuthing the Mysteries of Abandonment, Adoption, and DNA
Craig A. Steffen is a brave man determined to dig into his past in order to understand his present. O, that we were all so brave.
Orphaned at two years old and adopted with his sister to a solid, stoic and uncommunicative Iowa couple when he was four, Mr. Steffen forever longs for connection. His longing saturates A Family Apart, the story of his journey for identity.
He longs to know the truth of his biological family. And as long as he can remember, he has longed to be protected. He has longed to be known, seen, and claimed. He longs to be demonstrably loved. His is the central cry of every honest heart.
There are a lot of questions. Why did his mother abandon him, his sister and his brother? What happened to her after her disappearance? Why did no one in the family step in to take the children? And why won’t anyone talk about it?
“I really don’t know, tangibly, how either of my mothers regarded me…Deep within me lays [sic] a primal need to get out of my head and into my heart with regard to the two moms in my life.”
That desire to know catapults Mr. Steffen across five decades of murky family history, hundreds of miles of back roads, into libraries and living rooms and finally to family newly defined.
Mr. Steffen is a tenacious researcher, searching and sifting through scraps of information, following up with seemingly unlikely helpers, and cementing a relationship with some newly found relatives. There is joy in his discoveries, but sadness, too. He faces the truth of his mother’s story with clear-eyed honesty even while lamenting this mother he never knew.
A Family Apart is a poignant memoir that would have been all the better for a strong editorial hand. While a compelling read, there is too much minutia for the average reader, who will be immensely interested in the larger story, but less so in reading, say, the entire transcript of an 11-page letter. Ditto the small-print memos and italics-captioned pictures. A different layout and possible use of appendixes, coupled with an editor unafraid of using a red pencil, would do wonders for the overall appeal of the book.
Woven throughout this narrative is the journey of Mr. Steffen's faith, which began in the strict crucible of Plymouth Brethren church, evolved through life experiences, and which remains strong and open to new understandings. My favorite sentence in the book is this: “I have learned that this God is seemingly FAR more comfortable with chaos and disorder than modern, American Christianity proclaims.” Amen, brother.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.