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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Christian Adoption Novel Clean, Uplifting and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Lauren Bailey is tired of waiting for The One to magically appear in her life before she can make her dream of becoming a mother a reality. Only her very closest friends know that the 31-year-old first grade teacher has applied to adopt a child from China; in fact, she's been waiting to be matched with one for over a year. Since the rules dictate that she can only adopt as a single woman or as a wife of more than two years, Lauren has stopped looking for Mr. Right altogether.

Enter Joshua Avery, a goofy tech developer who's stepped in as a short-term sub for the other first grade teacher at Lauren's school. He's cheerful, funny, compassionate, successful, and...interested. As much as Lauren tries to convince herself she doesn't feel the sparks between them, she can't deny that a certain dinosaur-obsessed creator of educational apps is constantly on her mind. When she finally receives an email matching her with a child, Lauren is torn. The timing couldn't be worse. If she proceeds with the adoption, will she lose Joshua? If she prioritizes her new relationship, will her dream—what she feels is a God-given calling—of being an adoptive mother ever come true? She's having a difficult enough time getting her family onboard with the idea, let alone the new man in her life. Will she have to sacrifice her dream of adopting for her dream of finding the perfect partner? Is there some way to have both, even when it's looking like she'll get neither? 

Christy Award-winning author Nicole Deese and her husband adopted their daughter from China. That experience inspired her to write Before I Called You Mine, a novel that's not just about adoption, but also about the choices we make in life, the anxieties we feel, and the ability we have to conquer them through faith in God. (It's Christian fiction, natch.) Although my experience with adoption differed greatly from Lauren's fictional journey (my husband and I had been married for over a decade and had three biological children when we adopted our newborn daughter here in the U.S.), I could definitely empathize with a lot of her feelings and frustrations. Her decisions and thought patterns didn't always seem logical to me, but I still felt a connection with her character. She's sympathetic and likable, although—not gonna lie—she got irritating and self-centered at times. Joshua, on the other hand, is completely charming, likely because he has no actual flaws except for being a little too silly. He could have used some rounding out to make him more realistic. I especially dug Lauren's kind, supportive circle of friends; their presence adds a nice found-family aspect to the novel that gives it another layer of heartwarming appeal.

Deese has a warm, engaging writing style that makes Before I Called You Mine both compelling and enjoyable. The story is predictable, sure, but it's got enough conflict going on to keep it interesting. Lauren's romance with Joshua develops over time, her adoption journey is realistically bumpy, and her dealings with her parents and sister bring up some important issues about family, adoption, and decision making. This might be spoiler-y, but I would have liked more in the story about Lauren's actual experience as a single, working mother of an older child who has been plopped into a completely foreign living situation without being able to understand more than a few words of English. That whole experience—which could be incredibly rocky—feels glossed over in the novel. 

I know a lot of readers shy away from Christian novels because they often get too preachy, cheesy, or just over-the-top Jesus-y. Before I Called You Mine does have a stronger religious vibe than other Christian books I've read, but it's handled in a way that feels mostly natural and balanced. To be fair, I'm a religious person and I often have discussions with family and friends about church, scriptures, spiritual promptings, how God works in my life, etc. I like the way Deese deals with the religious aspects of the story, and I am definitely one who puts down a book if it's too preachy! This one isn't (at least not for me). 

Overall, I quite enjoyed Before I Called You Mine. It's clean, heartwarming, uplifting, and faith-promoting. I cared about the characters and felt invested in their plights. There was enough going on in the story to keep me reading. Its themes resonated with me as a mother, an adoptive parent, and a Christian woman. Deese's writing style appeals to me so I will definitely be reading more from her. 

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other books about adoption, although no particular one is coming to mind. Help!)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for nothing offensive

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Before I Called You Mine from the generous folks at Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


  1. I like the sound of this one. Choosing to adopt as a single woman is not an easy decision to make.

  2. I like that this book is about adoption and the rules, heartaches, and wonderfulness of it.

  3. This sounds like a heartwarming and compelling story that delves into the complexities of adoption and relationships. It's great to hear that the religious aspects are handled naturally, making it accessible even to readers who might be hesitant about Christian fiction.

  4. I love adoption stories!

  5. Anonymous was me! ~Carol @ReadingLadies 😂

  6. This book sounds interesting. I'm glad it worked for you. I like to read stories centered around adoption, as an adoptee. I'm not sure if this one would be for me, though. Mostly because I have some Korean adoptee acquaintances (friends from childhood whose parents were my parents' friends) who have vocalized some negative feelings around their adoptions. I would probably want something big from the Chinese character who was adopted and how they felt about it all. It's really made me think about foreign adoptions and adoptions in general in a different way.
    I've read a couple of YA books that I really loved: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway and The How & The Why by Cynthia Hand. Oh! And Jen Frederick has a good one called Heart & Seoul about a young Korean woman who was adopted by a couple in the Midwest that was really good. I also remember loving Where We Belong by Emily Giffin.

  7. I’m going to add this one. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Not really my kind of book but I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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