Editor's note: A complicated adoption in a foreign country, a wife with cancer, a daughter who needs a heart transplant and a mother motivated to run after a stilborn child are struggles four Utahns share in their recently released memoirs. Here is a review of one of the memoirs.
"To Sing Frogs" is a dangerous, uplifting, wrenching and wondrous tale.
Once started, it's impossible to walk away and just go on with daily life. It affects your heart, mind and soul.
John M. Simmons tells a true story with honesty, heart and a dry wit that's very engaging as he and his wife, Amy, head into the international adoption process to find a girl for their family.
He somehow manages to pull the reader in almost from the very start, even though it's obvious it's gonna hurt as the Simmons meet Katya, Luba and Kirrill along with Katya's best friends, Marina and Yule.
The children are both sweet and heartbreaking as they try their best to be what the Americans might want in an adopted child. Katya is aware that Americans don't want boisterous children or crybabies, so she smiles from ear to ear continuously. Two-year-old Luba doesn't need another mama; she has one in the orphanage director. Meanwhile, Kirrill is a sick baby who needs an American doctor to make him well.
The challenges are mighty as the Simmonses visit the orphanages, wait endlessly for the process to work, go to court, wait some more, work through paperwork glitches and even leave the country with only two of the three children they try to adopt.
They endure shocks and disappointments, regroup and soldier on.
As the obstacles keep coming, Simmons has to trust translators, adoption workers, government workers, orphanage directors and at several points, his basic instincts.
At one juncture, the little girl they've planned to adopt is checking every snowdrift and dirt pile on the orphanage playground for a budding flower. Simmons' wife had told her they would be back for her when the flowers bloomed, but it looks unlikely she can keep her promise.
Simmons starts to have nightmares of butterflies trying to emerge safely from their cocoons in the dead of a Russian winter. He's trying to offer shelter, but the cocoons go on forever.
(There are points when it's a relief to see a lot of the book still lies ahead. That means some of this must work out, right?)
Simmons paints a wonderfully candid picture of how the Russian system works and frustrates, even though he and his wife spend lots of money, weeks preparing as well as time away from their four boys and invest in little girls who keep losing their mamas.
He's funny and realistic while his wife is full of hope, love and optimism.
It's tough to read but is a real page turner.
In the end, it's a story of unwavering faith and prayer as "three little orphan girls in an atheist country had prayed to a God they couldn't see" and each found exactly what they needed.
This book is enlightening, a must-read for anyone considering foreign adoption, and a spiritual lesson for those, like Simmons, who tend to doubt and question.
It also may make you cry.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.