Surrendered Child

A Birth Mother's Journey

Title Details

Pages: 272

Illustrations: 22 b&w photos

Trim size: 5.500in x 7.500in



Pub Date: 03/15/2006

ISBN: 9-780-8203-2823-2

List Price: $23.95

Surrendered Child

A Birth Mother's Journey

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

Surrendered Child is Karen Salyer McElmurray's raw, poignant account of her journey from her teen years, when she put her newborn child up for adoption, to adulthood and a desperate search for the son she never knew. In a patchwork narrative interwoven with dark memories from her childhood, McElmurray deftly treads where few dare—into a gritty, honest exploration of the loss a birth mother experiences.

The year was 1973, a time of social upheaval, even in small-town Kentucky, where McElmurray grew up. More than a story of time and place, however, this is about a girl who, at the age of sixteen, relinquished her son at birth. Twenty-five years would pass before McElmurray began sharing this part of her past with others and actively looking for her son.

McElmurray's own troubled upbringing and her quest after a now-fully-grown son are the heart of her story. With unflinching honesty, McElmurray recounts both the painful surrendering and the surprise rediscovery of her son, juxtaposed with her portrayal of her own mother, who could not provide the love she needed. The dramatic result is a story of birthright lost and found—and an exploration of the meaning of motherhood itself.

This is a very moving and pungent narrative, which quickly engages the reader's imagination, as its gorgeously remembered details spill onto the page, not necessarily in chronological order but by patchwork design and as if on their own.

—Beverly Lowry, author of Crossed Over: A Murder, a Memoir

Graceful, shocking, sensuous, and gritty, this book questions consequences. It ends at the beginning and begins at the end. A wonderful, almost unbearably honest book.

—Sheri Reynolds, The Rapture of Canaan

Riveting and disturbing, McElmurray's poetic language and utter honesty lift this story into the realm of grace—finally, this dark memoir is an enlightening and redemptive work of art.

—Lee Smith

This book bears powerful testimony to the saving grace of imagination.


Not only a deeply moving personal story that takes great courage to tell, but also a beautiful and haunting exploration of the nature and the meaning of motherhood and love. McElmurray's lyrical, incantatory voice casts a magic spell.

—Janice Eidus, author of The Celibacy Club

McElmurray transforms some of her life's more difficult experiences into pure poetry; where there once was pain, she creates beauty.

—Rosemary Daniell, author of Fatal Flowers

Courageous in its honesty, stunning in its vision. McElmurray is a writer of enormous talent who explores the consequences of loss and grace and recovery in this hauntingly beautiful story of her life.

—Gwyn Hyman Rubio, author of Icy Sparks

In this fresh, painfully honest, but very wise and beautifully written book, Karen McElmurray tells us how deeply some decisions affect us, ever afterwards.

—Reeve Lindburgh


Georgia Author of the Year Awards, Georgia Writers Association


Notable Book of the Year, National Book Critics Circle

About the Author/Editor

KAREN SALYER MCELMURRAY is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Georgia College and State University. She has received dozens of honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Sherwood Anderson Award, and the James Purdy Prize for Fiction. She has published essays and stories in numerous magazines and journals.