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Macgregor to share new book at Gibson’s

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Virginia Macgregor spends lots of time at Gibson’s Bookstore while writing her novels. But on Sunday, she’ll be there for an official reason – a book talk and reading at 3 p.m. with her latest story, Before I Was Yours.

She answered a few questions in advance of the event.

What is “Before I Was Yours” about?

On Christmas day, Jonah, a 7-year-old boy from Kenya is abandoned at Heathrow Airport. Across London, Rosie and Sam, a white, British couple, who unable to have their own biological child, are starting out on the road to adoption. A few months later, the lives of these three people collide. But as Rosie and Sam get to know Jonah, hoping that he might be the child they’ve longed for, they begin to uncover some unsettling facts about his past: How he came to the U.K., what his life was like back in Kenya and who his birth mother is. Together, they set out on a journey that will change their lives forever. The story is about the beautiful and difficult road to adoption and the challenges of building a family when all the odds are stacked against you.

Did something particular inspire your interest in this topic?

My godmother, Anne, to whom the book is dedicated and her heartache at not being able to have children of her own and then the journey she went on to adopt a little boy from Romania and a girl from Vietnam. I was also inspired by the many children and couples I’ve spoken to who long for what life never gave them: A family.

Do you have any personal experiences with adoption?

My godson is adopted from Romania and I have several friends and family members who have adopted children from around the world. Becoming a mother (I have a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old) also brought to life the emotions of becoming a parent and building a family. I’ve come to understand how heartbreaking it must be not to be able to have children; to have to give up a child for adoption; or to be a child who has been abandoned by a parent. These questions to the heart of who we are as human beings.

Is it difficult as an adult, white woman to write from the perspective of a 7-year-old Kenyan boy?

Yes and no. No, in the sense that it’s no more difficult to write from the point of view of a 7-year-old Kenyan boy than it is to write from the point of view of a 96-year-old woman suffering from dementia (What Milo Saw) or a man whose wife walks out on him and his young children (The Return of Norah Wells) or a teenager living with a morbidly obese mother (Wishbones). It’s the job of an author to inhabit the lives of others.

That said, it’s also important to be authentic and to honor the particularity of the character you’re writing about. I spent a few weeks working in schools along the Lamu Coast in Kenya and met countless little boys like Jonah and although I don’t pretend to understand their experience fully – no one can ever do that – I hope that I captured something of their spirit and culture through my character.

Monitor staff