The Pirate Tree Reviews No-Name Baby

Review by J.L. Powers · Published by The Pirate Tree · July 16, 2012

Of all the tough subjects tackled by authors we have reviewed on The Pirate Tree, our own Nancy Bo Flood’s newest novel, No-Name Baby, takes on one of the most controversial, and most secret, topics in our society: the women who place their babies for adoption.

In No-Name Baby, the 14-year-old protagonist Sophie is negotiating a difficult moment in her adolescence. She has a crush on a classmate, Karl, who seems to return her feelings. Her pregnant mother goes into labor too soon and everybody worries that there will soon be a fourth grave for a fourth no-name baby, the latest in a string of babies that Mama lost. Sophie’s gruff aunt Rae is in charge of the household and holding onto a secret that she won’t reveal—and though Sophie wants to understand her aunt, she’s hurt and bewildered by the swirl of events surrounding her. Why is her aunt so dismissive of Karl? Why does she treat Sophie the way she does? And, when all the secrets are revealed, what will be the repercussions for Sophie and her relationship with her mother and father?

Even today, in 2012, when adoption is a much more widely accepted phenomenon (and children’s adoption status is no longer kept secret), the “birth mother” is a taboo topic. A friend of mine placed a daughter in adoption a decade ago and though she is open about the topic with friends and family, she doesn’t mention it at work for fear of reprisal. My friend was the one who taught me to use the phrase “placing children for adoption” rather than “giving a baby up.” It hadn’t occurred to me just how negative (and judgmental) the latter phrase was until I saw it through her eyes.

As a society, we are still more comfortable with the idea of teen parents than we are with teenagers having abortions or placing their children for adoption. Even worse, in the minds of many, is a grown woman who chooses to place her child for adoption. In this exquisitely crafted novel, Nancy Bo Flood takes us to an earlier time in America’s history to show both how far we’ve come—and how far we still have to go.