LocalLit book review: ’The Length of Our Staircase’ is for parents who never gave up on their child

Plainfield author Betsy Naglich wrote a novel but based it on her relationship with an adopted son

I don’t typically start a review with a book’s description.

But I’m making an exception for “The Length of Our Staircase” by Betsy Naglich of Plainfield because it gives my review a starting point.

Here is the abridged Amazon description: “‘The Length of Our Staircase’ is fiction, based on a true story about a strong, independent woman named Rose. While lacking confidence, she is determined to fulfill her late mother’s wish, to adopt an older boy who needs a home. It is both heart-breaking and heart-warming as Rose adopts the child and then faces years of hardships and conflicts because of her son’s abusive past. One problem leads to another, and Rose finds that her life now has a purpose: to succeed in creating a happy life for her son and a happy life for herself … this story is for every mother who fought for their child in any difficult situation.”

So while “The Length of our Staircase” is Rose’s story and mostly from Rose’s point of view, Naglich does let the reader see inside the minds of other characters, sometimes in the same scene, sometimes for whole chapters. These include Rose’s husband Bob, her adopted son Gabriel, the father of one of Gabriel’s co-workers, social workers and even other foster parents.

The story starts with Rose boarding a plane and sharing her determination to fulfill her mother’s wish with a fellow passenger. The second chapter flashes back to Rose’s childhood and the origins of that promise.

For the next 45 chapters, Naglich takes the reader through the entire process of parenting Gabriel: the adoption classes, meeting other children before deciding on Gabriel, counseling sessions, Catholic education, military school, helping him find sustainable employment, buying him a small townhome so he could live independently and, finally, supporting him through his journey to health and wellness.

Readers will also see Gabriel’s loneliness as his weight escalates and he has difficulty keeping up with daily chores due to his weight. They will see his fear as he’s diagnosed with diabetes and his determination to make changes.

“The Length of Our Staircase” is heavy on “tell” as opposed to “show” and conversations of diabetes management and bariatric surgery have a textbook feel.

Nevertheless, the reader will have a good understanding of adoption, diabetes and weight loss surgery by the end of the book. And the reader will also know the elation a parent and adult child can feel when a parent chooses not to give up and an adult child finally takes responsibility for himself.

“The Length of our Staircase” is available on Amazon.

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