Have you ever wondered what it is like to be adopted from a country on the other side of the world—whisked from poverty to riches, from friendship to strangers, from fluency to barely understanding the language, all while interpreting life through a lens as different from your new family’s as can be imagined? Carol Antoinette Peacock in Red Thread Sisters (Viking Juvenile, 2012) finds an authentic eleven-year-old girl’s voice in which to tell this moving story.

Abandoned at age five by her own mother, Wen is befriended by Shu Ling. Slightly older, artistic and nurturing, Shu Ling is ignored by potential parents because of her clubfoot. Both girls are rapidly “aging out” when Wen’s dream of having an American family comes true. Promising to find an adoptive family for Shu Ling, Wen leaves the orphanage behind. But leaving does not give her the feelings of freedom and happiness she expects.

Although her American family is kind, they do not understand her like Shu Ling did. Her new mother and father look so different from anyone she’s ever known, and though her little sister looks Chinese, she acts completely American. Wen is grateful for the luxury of her own room, beautiful clothes, and lots of food to eat, but she is constantly fearful of doing something wrong and being sent back to China. When her mother is a few minutes late picking her up from school, the fear of being abandoned comes back to haunt her. And getting along with American girls is so confusing!

Slowly, Wen settles in to her new environment and plans to ask her family to adopt Shu Ling. They have so much she feels that they can afford to share it with one more child. Then her father gets laid off from his job and Wen’s plan is in ruins. She learns there are websites for Americans interested in adopting children from China. With help from her mother she starts a campaign to let people know what a wonderful daughter Shu Ling would make.

Wen spends so much time trying to get her old friend to America that she upsets her new friend Hannah and her little sister Emily, who want to spend more time with her. Wen tries to make amends, but is frightened because time is running out for Shu Ling. Though suspense mounts, the two girls see each other again at last, after Shu Ling is adopted by an American family. Wen is finally able to shake off fears of being abandoned and tell her new mother “I love you.”

For sensitive readers, this book will stir up concern for the poverty, hunger, and sadness described in the Chinese orphanage. Although written gently, it is still clear that these little ones suffer, that some die. The “Aunties” in the orphanage are kind but overworked women with few resources for so many children. Such narratives may cause readers to count their own blessings and make them more compassionate toward newcomers.

In America, Wen meets people of all kinds, but generally good, caring individuals, including her new grandmother and Nancy Lin the “adoption lady.” The confusion of adjusting to American life and Wen’s fear of losing her best friend are both resolved victoriously.

Approximately 230 pages long, Red Thread Sisters is suited for middle school children. I found it at a school book fair, but it is also available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Christianbook.com in both print and e-book formats.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Mrs. Fujimoto has a collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge, available as an e-reader at Amazon. Find our review under “N” in the alphabetical listing: Titles We’ve Reviewed.