I read Love in the Driest Season for my local book group. I thought it was an good book, and well told. It’s the story of an American couple who adopts a baby from Zimbabwe in 1999 and 2000. It does follow Neely Tucker’s trips around Africa some, as a foreign correspondent, and can be graphic in those sections, but mostly, it focuses on the adoption.
Not surprisingly, I was rather invested in this story after volunteering in an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan. There were details that reminded me so clearly of my orphanage, even though the situation in Bishkek is relatively so much better than in Zimbabwe. Orphanage life is never great anywhere.
Just to be clear, I am a supporter of adoption, including international, as one of the ways to help children anywhere in the world. However, it’s not a perfect solution, or even the best solution. It’s one tool that, if used wisely, can help reduce the number of street children and children living in orphanages and foster homes.
As the story is told, Neely and Vita Tucker choose international adoption for all the right reasons, and they go about it in the right way. They follow the laws of Zimbabwe, they don’t pay bribes. They live in Zimbabwe and hope to be able to stay there longer, but aren’t able to because of the political situation. They continue to work with the orphanage their daughter was at. Before reading this book I’d read some misleading reviews that criticized the Tuckers, but I have to heartily disagree.
My biggest concern with this book is that it’s a bit limited. Even though it wasn’t meant to be a primer on international adoption, I do think that at least an afterword or something about international adoption would have been appropriate. A brief explanation of why there are concerns about international adoption (you can make a good case for its being the worst kind of colonialism, and there are worse places in the world for a child to be than an orphanage) and why Zimbabwe was, at the time, so reluctant to allow international adoption would have been helpful. Even some book suggestions would have been good, because I’d imagine that more than one person who reads this book might want to adopt, and this book says not a word about the time after the adoption is completed, which can be harder than the adoption itself.
But that's a small limitation. It's a book well worth reading.